Month of May not as quiet as you think
By the numbers
4,100: Approximate number of lodging units in Vail.
2,000: Combined lodging nights booked in Vail for April and May.
860: Average number of paid guest rooms per night booked in May.
$300: Average daily spending of Vail guests.
Source: Vail Chamber & Business Association
VAIL — Ski resorts used to all but close down when the winter season ended. That isn’t exactly true any more.
Based on current bookings, Vail’s lodging occupancy will average about 20 percent from now through the end of May. That doesn’t sound like much, considering weekend occupancy ran at about 98 percent during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February. But that relatively small percentage still adds up to several thousands of people.
According to statistics provided by a group of local business-promotion groups, 20 percent occupancy adds up to an average of 860 paid guest rooms per night. Assuming two people per unit, that’s still 1,700 people per day in town. May alone will account for about 26,500 guests.
Given that most of those rooms are booked by educational, business and other groups, seminars and the like occupy a good portion of the days participants are here. Still, many of those people will be looking for a meal or drinks at the end of the day, and others will wander the resort villages, whether window-shopping or looking to pick up a few offseason bargains.
With those numbers in mind, the business-promotion groups — which include the Vail Valley Partnership, Vail Chamber & Business Association and Vail Economic Advisory Council — recently sent out a blast email encouraging businesses to stay open.
Alison Wadey, director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said the effort isn’t really intended to prompt businesses to take down their “closed” signs this spring, but to spur some thought.
The decision to stay open or shut down for a few weeks is always a tough one, Wadey said.
“There are business factors, whether it’s time off or renovations,” Wade said.
Getting out the information now, she said, is an attempt to get business owners to think about their budgets and schedules for this fall or the spring of next year.
Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail stays open through the slow times, albeit at a slower pace.
Sarah John, the restaurant’s marketing director, said the business scales back its staff during the slow times and is open for dinner five nights per week instead of seven.
“It’s a big change from winter,” John said.
The slowdown allows restaurant employees to take some time off after the winter season, John said. But there’s also enough room in the schedule for people to work almost full-time schedules after they’ve taken some time away.
The lighter schedule also gives the restaurant a way to retain people that have already been trained.
As with many businesses in town, groups make up a “big part” of Kelly Liken’s dinner business in the slow seasons.
“We’ve had a number of the same groups coming in year after year,” John said.
Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer agreed with Wadey that bottom-line considerations will ultimately determine whether or not a business stays open in May or October. But, he said, the more businesses that do stay open will provide a better guest experience to the people who do come, and could play a role in keeping groups coming back.
As far as boosting slow-season business, Romer said that driving occupancy from 20 percent to, say, 25 percent, would be nice, but probably isn’t worth a lot of time, effort or marketing money. The valley’s marketing money is far better used to boost 80 percent weeks or weekends to 85 percent. That’s more people, of course, but those people are also visiting when lodges ask, and get higher rates.
Again, though, even a weekend of 20 percent occupancy represents a decent-sized crowd. And even at discount rates, guests are still spending.
“The Four Seasons (hotel) is open now, and you know the groups staying there are spending some money,” Romer said.
That’s why Wadey, Romer and others would like to see more businesses making the decision to stay open, even on a lighter schedule.
Wadey noted that the town’s welcome centers at the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures have lists of open businesses and encouraged businesses that are open now to get that information into the welcome centers.
And despite the slower pace of this season, Wadey said she’s seeing groups responding to the town’s charms this time of year.
“People are starting to figure out the benefits of coming now,” Wadey said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.