Good signs seen for summer business in Vail
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Whenever the sun decides to come out consistently, the Vail Valley could be poised for a pretty good summer.Leisure visitors in the summer have long waited until just about the last minute to make reservations for a weekend trip, and that trend continues this year. But a combination of new events on the summer calendar and a modest rebound in the valley’s group-meeting business are good signs for the coming season.Bob Trotter, general manager of the Westin Riverfront in Avon, said reservations at his place are running well ahead of last year’s pace.”We have a lot of weddings this summer,” Trotter said. “But a positive sign for us, and the valley, is the corporate groups coming back.Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa General Manager Frank Johnson said that property’s Memorial Day reservations were about even with last year, but added that the summer overall is up by about 7 percent. And, while a boost of less than 10 percent compared to the last two years isn’t news worthy of party hats and streamers, “to be at all ahead compared with the last two years is a positive sign,” Johnson said.The valley’s occupancy is likely to get a boost from several new events coming this summer. In June, the annual Ride the Rockies event will make its first overnight stop in the valley in more than a decade. While many people on that week-long trek through the high country camp at most stops, a number of people do book rooms at various stops along the way.”We have a number of rooms booked for people who are going to make Avon their base of operations for a few days,” Trotter said.In all, about 2,500 people will be in the valley that night.The last week in July and the first week in August, “The Show” a giant youth baseball tournament, will land in the valley, occupying fields from Vail to Gypsum, and bringing an average of 1,950 hotel room reservations per night.In late August, the USA Pro Cycling tour will come through Vail and Avon for a two-night stop.Vail Valley Partnership Executive Director Chris Romer said those events should drive reservations in a season usually marked by people who book rooms Wednesday or Thursday for a weekend stay. The Show and the cycling event also come as kids on the Front Range start back to school, which, in the summer resort business, is a very big deal.”The impact of school breaks can be tumultuous,” Mountain Travel Research Program director Ralf Garrison said. Just as important, but less predictable, is the weather. And, in a mirror image of the winter storms that drew Front Range residents to the mountains last winter, a cool, wet May has done mountain resorts no favors.On the other hand, summer occupancy in the Vail Valley doesn’t really catch fire until late June and early July, so there’s still some time for Front Range visitors to get the urge to come play in cooler mountain climes.Garrison said the Vail Valley is also in a position to take advantage of this year’s run-up in fuel prices, which have added about $150 to the average airline ticket, but just a few dollars to the price of a tank of gas for the family car. That makes short to medium-length car trips much more attractive to many travelers, he said.”Consumers are booking (later), they’re driving instead of flying and they’re staying closer to home,” Garrison said. “A resort like Vail can be booked late, and rooms rates are 50 to 60 percent of what they are in the winter. So a summer vacation in the mountains offers a really nice match to what consumers are looking for.”
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