Vail Daily column: Late school starts makes a difference
I’ve long appreciated our summer season. In fact, like many of us, I am the living definition of the old saying “came for the winter, but stayed for the summer.”
We, as a community, have done an admirable job of extending our summer tourist season with new events in September (Season of Song and the Tour of Vail cycling event come to mind). The Vail Valley Partnership’s group sales team played a significant role in recruiting and booking these programs, which have a major impact on our lodging occupancies during the month of September and also provide locals and guests alike with an additional reason to visit. Of course, these programs and events also help further enhance our sales tax coffers.
Being involved in the tourism business for a number of years, I’m keenly aware of the impacts of school schedules on our summer calendar and impacts to our summer tourism economy. In fact, many schools along the Front Range and throughout Colorado have been starting earlier and earlier in August. Add to that the extra-curricular activities and sports practices starting even earlier and our marketable summer, in many ways, continues to constrict and shrink.
There’s long been talk in the tourism industry across Colorado that we should consider school start dates after the Labor Day holiday weekend. We’re not alone – numerous states including Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Florida and Tennessee have reviewed (or are reviewing) the benefits of starting school in September. It certainly bears discussion and tracking not only the impacts on the tourism industry but also the results of these schools and impacts on the students attending school in these districts.
Moving from talk to action, a new study by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center examines family travel patterns when school starts before Labor Day. The study found family trips of two or more nights away decreased 50 percent in August or September when the start of school was before Labor Day. It also found family overnight travel from May to September decreased 30 percent when school opened before Labor Day (data for the study was drawn from the American Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau).
Ingrid Schneider, Director of the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, as part of the research study mentioned above, recently stated “policy makers considering school start dates are weighing important matters for the public good. Everyone wants strong educational outcomes, and the tourism industry wants to remain a successful economic force. We wanted to bring objective and comparative data to this issue.”
Thank you to those of you visiting our fair valley, as schools throughout Colorado are about to start (this week here in Eagle County). In fact, I encourage you to return in September – it’s a great month to visit and we’ve got an incredible lineup of special events including three weeks of Oktoberfest celebrations in Beaver Creek, Lionshead and Vail Village, new lifestyle events/educational symposium programs (Living at Your Peak and Elevate Vail) to the Season of Song (musical event) to the Tour of Vail (world-class national championship cycling).
Add to the event calendar our continually improving culinary scene and dining specials with Vail Restaurant Month, incredible deals at our local golf courses and lodging deals almost too good to be true and you’ve got yourself options for a weekend to remember.
From a business perspective, imagine the benefits to Colorado’s tourism industry (and by extension, the Vail Valley’s tourism economy) by schools throughout the state starting after Labor Day. The study from the University of Minnesota shows the positive benefits to our economy. Long story short – from a tourism and visitor viewpoint, our summer season (including September) in the Vail Valley is not to be missed.
From a personal perspective, our daughter (along with hundreds of other children throughout the valley) starts kindergarten on Friday. That seems awfully early (and I’m aware this year is a bit of a irregularity). Regardless, I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that I have a kindergartner – and what it means to my (formerly) flexible travel patterns. So despite all the great events and things to do, somehow summer just got shorter for me.
Both personally and professionally, I like the idea of a longer summer.
The Vail Valley Partnership is a regional leader in sustaining and enhancing the Vail Valley as a tourism destination and as a place to do business by contributing to the identity and economic well-being of the Eagle River Valley. Learn more about us at VailValleyPartnership.com.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership