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Vail business bustles through spring

Cliff Thompson

Boosted by good snow, some effective marketing, the return of free-spending destination guests and an earlier Easter holiday, business in Vail continued to grow in April, town sales tax collections show. The town’s 4 percent sales tax collections grew 6.9 percent over last year and totaled $871,468.The growth of year-to-date tax collections gives the town nearly $437,000 more than budgeted, and reverses a decade-long trend of declining or flattening sales tax collections in the 42 year-old town.Many use the sales tax collections as a barometer of local economic health. April’s taxable transactions totaled $21.7 million.Vail’s sales tax in snow-starved March declined 1.8 percent, and slowed what had been double-digit increases in sale tax collections during the second half of ski season.But not all merchants saw a significant return to growth in April. Steve Rosenthal, who has owned Colorado Footwear for the past nine years, said his business is dead-even with last year.He has, however, noticed more destination visitors in Vail.”You see them (in your store) more than once,” he said. “It’s not a big village.”Rosenthal said April is the slowest month of the year at his store, as it is across town. May was surprisingly strong, he said, despite the construction in the Village and elsewhere. The town has used volunteers to help people visiting town navigate their way through the construction zones.”The town has done a good job,” he said. “People have continued to find their way into the village.”For Vail Resorts’ Bill Jensen, April’s sales tax statistics validate the success of a marketing plan begun two seasons ago called “Spring Back to Vail.”Lift ticket sales were up, shown by receipts from the town’s 4 percent lift tax, which increased by 31.4 percent from the previous April and is up 8 percent for the 2003-2004 ski season.”It’s a focused effort by the business community and Vail Resorts to grow skier days in April,” he said. “I really point to that as one of the main drivers.”It’s not an original idea, Jensen said. “We’re stealing this idea from Whistler,” he said. There, April skier numbers have increased steadily over the seven years a spring promotion program has been in operation, he said.Rosenthal said that Easter falling during the second week of April helped accommodate Mexican visitors who traditionally come to the resort during that holiday. Last year Easter fell after the ski lifts had closed.Another factor is the weakening dollar on global markets that make traveling and vacationing here, less expensive. He said he also believes the improving national economy is driving more business.”We are feeling the rebound of the national economy,” he said. “It gives you some optimism. When the economy took a hit in 2002 and 2003, we felt it just like everyone else.”Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.


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