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Local tech company celebrates anniversary

Biz Vail Net KA 3-4-11
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Back in 1996, the Internet was still mostly mystical to a lot of people. Betty Neal remembers those days.

In the days before “Lewinsky” was a late-night punchline, Betty Neal and John Uhley helped found Resort Technology Partners, which goes by the name RTP. A couple of years earlier, Uhley had helped create Vail.net, the valley’s first Internet service provider.

“When we created the portal site Vail.net, a lot of the original focus was making it an advanced planning tool for the guest and a lead into traditional sales channels for businesses,” Uhley wrote in an e-mail.

The company still serves that purpose, Uhley wrote. But it also does a lot more. These days, the Vail.net site is a comprehensive vacation planner. And the site gets noticed.

“We have first-page Google rankings,” Neal said. Just as important, the fact that Vail.net isn’t a part of a resort company or lodging association means it can provide more information to more people.

“We go to all kinds of events where there are people from other resorts,” Neal said. “They all tell us, ‘You’re fortunate to have a non-partisan portal.'”

Over the years, Vail.net and RTP have expanded into technical services, website development and other services in addition to Web hosting. The company has also opened a sales office in Denver in the past few years.

The company’s growth has in a way mirrored the growth of the Internet. Uhley recalled that when he started the company, most people didn’t have access to the Web. Virtually everyone who was online was using dial-up connections that would load the photos of a home for sale in roughly the time it took to drive from Denver to Vail.

“Now just about everyone is on the Internet using a high speed broadband connection,” Uhley wrote. “Most businesses not only have a Web presence but are using that website to actually drive direct sales and bookings though the website from start to finish, instead of just a lead into a traditional phone call booking or sale.”

That’s happening more and more these days at Nova Guides, which uses the Vail.net Internet portal.

“(The web) has become a big part of how we market, just in the last couple of years,” Nova Guides marketing manager Drew Fortner said. “The importance is in how they’re finding us.”

Fortner said Nova Guides is seeing an increasing number of customers who find the company, then book trips right away.

Neal said having an independent portal such as Vail.net can give smaller businesses a bigger presence on the Web, making them better able to compete for destination tourists.

“It really levels the playing field,” she said.

At Vista Restaurant in Arrowhead, owner Janine Glennon has had a Web presence for the last several years. She said her online reservations are growing every year, and much of her wedding-catering business is coming directly from the Internet.

She agreed that speed is key these days, and said that’s why she’s kept Vista’s webpage as uncomplicated as possible.

“I know if I’m waiting 45 seconds for a page to load, I’m going to go somewhere else,” Glennon said.

Speed and convenience seems to be the current direction for Web technology just about everywhere.

Neal said Vail.net is seeing a lot of growth from mobile devices. Last year, 20 percent of the company’s site visits came from mobile devices, and that number is growing all the time.

Uhley wrote that the combination of mobile technology and social media.

“While people will still continue to use the Internet to do advanced research and planning of their vacation trips, I think they’re very likely to use their smartphone to, for example, book dinner or purchase tickets to a movie or performance while sitting on a chairlift. I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the not-so-distant future,” he wrote.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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