Signs show increase in world visitors |

Signs show increase in world visitors

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL – With Vail Mountain events celebrating everything from Australia Day to the Latin American holy week Semana Santa, it’s obvious why international visitors feel welcome when they’re here and continue to return.

The amount of Spanish and Portuguese heard around town has been increasing in recent years, and at the beginning of the 2011-12 winter season, it seems the pace is continuing.

Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner said the resort has begun its weekly demographic research and early signs show an increase in international travelers, although the data isn’t conclusive yet.

Vail has built relationships with all the right people in many of its top international markets – Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Mexico and South American countries like Brazil and Argentina, Sutner said. And in the Latin American countries specifically, those relationships are critical.

Vail Resorts sends sales and marketing people on international trips throughout the year to maintain and build those relationships, which ultimately builds business. Sutner left the country five or six times in 2011 on business trips, and lodging representatives like Magda King, of the Antlers at Vail, often go on the trips, too.

King, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, promotes the Antlers and all of Vail Village, specifically Lionshead, when she heads to Mexico and South America. Speaking the language helps her build important relationships, too.

“South America is a relationship market. You have to build personal relationships,” King said.

Vail’s relationship with Mexican travelers goes back a long way, but Sutner and his team are always trying to grow it because he said they can never take it for granted. They’ve also been working harder on building the South American relationships in recent years.

“There’s no way Vail could be as successful with the Mexican market as we are if we weren’t traveling down there,” Sutner said.

Global reach

The trips to Mexico, in which the marketing and sales folks work with Mexican travel tour operators, are as important as the promotional trips Vail Resorts pays for to bring some of those folks to Vail, too. Over the summer, Vail Mountain hosted a group of prominent Mexicans and a story later appeared in Quien magazine, similar to People magazine.

Vail Resorts International Communications Manager Pat Barrett said that kind of exposure is exactly what Vail is looking for. The effort continues to get even more exposure with an upcoming trip to Uruguay, for example.

Sutner and others will travel to the popular resort town of Punta del Este, Uruguay, at the beginning of January, a time when wealthy travelers from around South America and Mexico will be vacationing there. Sutner compares it to Cannes, France, or to the Hamptons in New York.

Vail is sponsoring “a premier beach party” there to generate impact and awareness, Sutner said.

“And making ourselves present in that world,” he said.

In January, the Australian presence in Vail is obvious and showed a spike in January 2011, boosted by a favorable exchange rate between Australian dollars and U.S. dollars.

Sutner said January 2012 will be considered Australia Day in Vail throughout the month. He said there will likely be weekly open-house parties at Vail restaurants such as the mountaintop Bistro 14 with Australian food and beer. The goal behind it is partly to make the Australian news, Sutner said.

Canadians, mostly from the eastern provinces, tend to travel after Christmas and Boxing Day, which is Dec. 26. Vail Resorts is continuing to work on getting a nonstop flight from Toronto to Eagle during winter months because the business is significant enough to warrant such a flight. The flight alone could attract more business, too.

Travelers from Great Britain don’t tend to come to Vail during any specific time, but do travel here consistently throughout winter. Sutner said Vail Resorts is hearing anecdotally that Great Britain business is also on the rise this year, which he partly attributes to poor snowfall in Europe both last winter and so far this winter.

Regardless of why or when international travelers are coming to town, the point is that they’re coming. They travel farther distances, meaning they typically stay in town for much longer than an American destination guest, and they spend more money on average, too. And when they come during times that American travelers typically don’t, such as the first week of the year, for example, they’re changing the business patterns in town for the better.

“The week following New Year’s has, up until about two to three years ago, been a nonpeak week,” Sutner said. “That has become effectively a peak week now, and the reason is because of international business.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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