Group business a key to 12-month economy |

Group business a key to 12-month economy

Scott Mason
Vail, CO, Colorado

Business owners, management companies and operators alike rely upon a variety of segments and channels that make up our customer base in the Vail Valley throughout the year.

In this resort destination, particularly during high-demand periods, we are often focused on our leisure or transient guests. During the so-called offseason when our guests are less prevalent, those of us who live in the valley year-round are the customer base. One segment that often gets overlooked, and arguably requires more collective emphasis to attract, is group and/or convention customers. This segment of our business is crucial to the health and success of all year-round business in the Vail Valley.

Nearly one-third of visitors to the Vail Valley come with groups. Groups can range from high-end corporate incentives, regional associations, social groups or gatherings such as reunions and weddings. Many of our businesses directly or indirectly benefit from these group visitors.

Regardless of season, this demand is a necessity, as it enables our local businesses to sustain themselves all year. This business keeps the activity and venue providers busy during our slow times, filling seats in our restaurants, increasing volume in our stores and shops, putting “heads in beds” in hotels and creating the buzz of a sophisticated, clean, versatile and appealing location. Group business has also allowed the community to better sustain and grow programs such as our summer air service.

For many of these guests, it is their first introduction to the Vail Valley. Their time spent here offers the experience to capture another future leisure customer, or at a minimum, an ambassador in the market to share what a special place this destination is.

Many of our businesses have a significant amount of resources deployed to further develop and serve the group market.

For some local businesses, revenue from groups can make up half of the annual business volume. The Vail Valley Partnership is also focused on helping these organizations in our valley make a greater impact and to ensure a well-organized, collaborative effort on behalf of all businesses.

In 2007, the Partnership attended more than 30 industry events and trade shows around the country, generating 175 group leads for lodges. The Partnership also hosted more than 25 familiarization trips and site tours for meeting and travel planners interested in the Vail Valley. These are just two examples of efforts producing more than $1.9 million in group sales bookings for 2007 (up 9 percent from 2006) and $2.4 million in future bookings for 2008 and beyond (up 8 percent from the previous year).

It is important that we more fully understand this critical segment of our economy. Growing this segment of the market will help our businesses achieve sustainability and our destination location to continue to grow and thrive.

I would like to echo the words of board of governors President Greg Repetti when he said, “The Partnership, as the official resource and advocate for business and tourism, is aware business and tourism walk hand in hand in this unique destination we live and do business in. The board of governors also walks this walk, and we are geared up to not miss a step.”

We are a new board with a set of priorities to support an organization whose sole purpose is to provide for the Vail Valley, whose growth and successes are well-documented in tradition, values, determination and pride. I can’t think of a better lead to follow.

Scott Mason is an executive at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and a member of the Vail Valley Partnership board of governors.

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