Small company wins information booth bid
VAIL – Enough is enough.Working in front of a packed house, Vail Town Council Tuesday voted to hire Vail Brochure Delivery, a small local company, to run the town’s information centers at the Vail Village and Lionshead parking garages. With the 5-2 decision – with Mayor Rod Slifer and council member Kent Logan casting the “no” votes – the council took the information center business away from one of the town’s two chambers of commerce, and kept it away from a rival group that had long sought the business.Local resident Bobby Bank won the contract based- at least in part – on a promise to work solely for the town, instead of hundreds of members. That means people working at the centers will refer travelers and others only to Vail businesses.But why did this decision fill the meeting room?”All the organizations involved in this invested a lot of time, effort, and prestige in this,” said Bill Jewitt, owner of Bart and Yeti’s in Lionshead. “There’s a lot of prestige involved.”
For the past few years, the Vail Chamber and Business Association, a Vail-only group, has tried to wrest the information center contract away from the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, which has run the centers for more than 30 years.While the Chamber and Tourism Bureau has been criticized in the past for occasionally sending walk-up hotel business to lodges outside of Vail, most of those at Tuesday’s meeting came to urge the council to keep the information centers in the hands of the group now running them.”It’s something people are passionate about,” said Emily McCormack of the Vail Cascade Club, who was one of those who favored keeping the Tourism and Convention Bureau running the centers.For Verbatim Booksellers owner Robert Aikens, the centers are an important portal to town businesses. This spring, someone at the center tracked Aikens down while he was on vacation. The result for the business owner was an order for 50-some books.”They’re doing their jobs very, very well,” Aikens said. “There are other entities in town that could take a lesson from them.”But, Aikens added, he believes Bank and partner Mary Ellen Welch will do well running the centers. “The only concern I have is the construction and the havoc around town, and how they’ll deal with that,” Aikens said.Keeping some continuity in the information centers while so much of Vail is under construction is why Slifer and Logan said they voted against the new firm.
“I just do not think this is the time to change,” Logan said. “With everything going on, we need experience running those centers.”Other council members argued for change.”It’s gotten tiresome listening to the sniping between the chambers,” Councilman Dick Cleveland said. And, he added, the town still provides the space, and will continue to provide parking and ski passes for volunteers.”Nothing’s really going to change there,” he said.But there will be changes.While Welch and Bank pledged to try to keep as many current employees as possible, the reservation system for last-minute hotel room reservations will change, since it has been part of the chamber and tourism bureau’s central system. Bank and Welch also won’t get any commissions from those reservations.
Despite the line of people supporting the chamber and tourism bureau, at least one member of the public applauded the council’s decision.”This is the first decision this council’s made where they’ve done their due diligence and taken the advice from their staff,” said resident Stephen Connolly.”Usually when a group doesn’t get the answer it wants, it packs the room, and the answer changes,” he added. “Tonight that didn’t happen.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado