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Making money in May

by Micheal Robinson
Vail Valley Partnership

I was walking through Vail Village the other day and couldn’t help but take notice of the signs that, in essence, read “closed until Memorial Day.”

When we look at the obstacles that lie between our business community and a 365-day economy, I can’t help but wonder how we will work ourselves out of this Catch-22. Or do we want to work ourselves out of it?

The question is not the Partnership’s to answer ” I’m sure we can make a compelling argument advocating for a less seasonal economy, but leadership without consensus is more of a dictatorship. The business community is the only voice that should matter in this debate.

If we are courageous enough to challenge the status quo and embrace a valley wide effort to keep business doors open when a future May rolls around, will we be courageous enough to make a go of what is sure to be a tough task? Braver yet, can we challenge ourselves to abolish “mud” from our vocabulary? The negative connotation of “mud season” is not the foundation on which we will embrace the “opportunity seasons” that will link our economically successful periods.

If we give a reason for people to visit in May, will they? And will that be all that is needed to begin to see the uptick in business that will measure this effort’s success?

While this debate goes on, let’s isolate the facts. It’s a fact that we do not control the weather. But businesses cannot depend on weather. We must take control of the factors we can control that bring in business regardless of weather. Is our retail community strong enough to stand as a solo attraction? Is retail the largest player in this mission? Are our spas strong enough to lure the leisure guest? Should restaurateurs consider new and innovative ways to partner with each other and other businesses to promote the breadth of culinary offerings year-round?

Other mountain destinations are successfully taking steps to move closer to a 365-day-a-year business life. May sees the Taste of Durango and a wine festival there, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council organizes weekend gallery tours, and Aspen hosts its annual Independence Pass Foundation Ride for the Pass.

But let’s give credit where it’s due. The retail force is growing and getting stronger across the valley. The Partnership has even formed a committee to create more opportunities for attracting and retaining a healthy retail mix. We’ve promoted spa packages in May through targeted e-mail campaigns in addition to booking reservations for the “Spa’d at Vail” promotion. The Partnership’s Golf Vail Valley program, a one-stop online portal of information on golf in the Vail Valley, has worked with the lodging community to create special packages complete with spa services.

But in order for mud season to truly be a thing of the past, we will need to embrace one another and make it a truly valley wide effort.

Together we can uncover and capitalize on new opportunities. Making more of May and October may be a calculated risk, but instinct tells me a new approach to doing business during these periods can be learned, refined and perfected.

New Yorkers struggled for years as consumers escaped the cold wind and snow of the big city for points south for the holidays until business got together and created the most magical shopping district of the year, during one of the most lucrative periods of spending, in one of the coldest, and weather-unfriendly cities in the world. Today, consumers from around the world remark, “I love Christmas shopping in New York!”

The same opportunity exists here in the Vail Valley, and we fortunately have the brand and the creative brain power in our business leadership to tackle this opportunity with gusto.

On the flip-side, there’s nothing really wrong with the current system: Many businesses are doing things right given the current off-season business model they have to work with. Local restaurateurs have adapted their typical peak-season strategies to lure locals in during the shoulder months.

I write this column aware I may be preaching to the choir, as those of you in town this week, are most likely working, and would be support the 365-day approach to business success.

I believe the Valley is up for a go at this, and the Partnership is pleased to lead the charge.


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