July 3, 2010
VAIL, Colorado – Vail needs to speak for itself.That’s what a recent report by a group of graduate students from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business says the town and resort needs to do – let the unique and intriguing mountain experiences in Vail spread like wildfire through word of mouth.Of course, the right marketing strategies – and plenty of them – won’t hurt, either. The report was done on behalf of the Vail Homeowners Association “in order to assist the organization and the community in meeting its objective to become an international resort destination.”The Vail Homeowners Association annual meeting had a “Vail needs to go global” theme last December, which is when the association’s executive director, Jim Lamont, started asking questions about how the town can cash in. An association board member happens to also sit on the board of trustees at the college, so they got the project going through that connection. “I put (the students) in touch with all these various local people and they also consulted with their professors,” Lamont said. The idea is to get people talking in Vail, Lamont said. He wants the report to stimulate conversations that actually lead to results.The report outlined five recommendations that would ideally get Vail the international status and clientele it wants. The recommendations include unifying the public image, having direct international flights into the Eagle airport, focusing on sports injury surgeries and recovery as the main health and wellness attraction to Vail, increasing the amount of conventions and events in town, and working hard to bring a Denver Winter Olympics and World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail.With last month’s announcement that Vail will host the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, the town and resort is already making headway.”Winter Olympics and World Championships are the best chances for Vail to be known worldwide,” the report said. As for Winter Olympics, the report says that Denver has a high chance of being awarded a Winter Olympics, and that it’s an opportunity Vail needs to understand. Heavily promoting Vail for that cause, as well as helping in the fight for Denver to win such a bid, should be top priorities for both the town and Vail Resorts, according to the report.
If the domestic market isn’t as productive, which it obviously hasn’t been throughout this economic recession, then Vail needs to look outside of the United States, the report says. “Fortunately for Vail, we already have a pretty strong foundation of international guests,” Lamont said. “So it’s really just going back to our roots.”Before the recession hit in 2008, Vail had a mix of about 75 percent destination travelers from either out-of-state or out-of-country, and 25 percent day-trip skiers typically coming from the Colorado Front Range. Since the recession, the ratio has reversed and less money is being infused into the local economy, according to the report.”We can’t survive on frugal,” Lamont said. The future of Vail depends on a successful marketing strategy to international and domestic destination visitors, the report says. That strategy is already something Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner is working on – Sutner said the company is marketing with the goal of improving the skier mix to the 2007-08 levels of destination skiers.In addition to big marketing campaigns overseas, including several websites in multiple languages, Vail Resorts is pursuing American cities with its marketing campaigns. “We’re going back to getting that destination business back one city at a time,” Sutner told the Vail Homeowners Association last December. Sutner said the company is focusing on the Web, with a Web advertising budget up about 100 percent from the year before. The company is also working with the lodging industry and airlines as part of its marketing strategies.The Daniels College report shows that 4 to 8 percent of Vail Resorts’ clientele is international, and Vail’s total winter international destination guest market is about 10 percent. In order to bring those numbers up, Vail has to research demographics and the popular travel times for each international group, the report says. Lamont said the take-away is really to let Vail speak for itself. The report basically says the town and resort has a lot going on and to keep doing what they’re doing, he said.”But learn how to market it better and get people in here,” Lamont said. Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org