Vail doesn’t take Mexican business for granted |

Vail doesn’t take Mexican business for granted

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – It’s no secret that upscale visitors from Mexico love Vail and visit year after year, but why do they love Vail so much?

The Mexican tourist’s love affair with the ski resort began back in the 1960s, and Vail Resorts has recognized over the years that the Mexican traveler is one of its most loyal customers.

Pat Barrett, the international public relations manager for Vail Resorts, said it’s hard to place an exact date on when the first groups of visitors from Mexico came to Vail, but they were here around the late 1960s, and some of those first Mexican visitors have since founded travel agencies in Mexico, “sending thousands more guests to Vail over the past 40-odd years,” Barrett said.

Local businesses have reaped the benefits, because when the Mexican visitors are here, they stay for weeks at a time and like to eat out and shop.

Steve Virion, owner of La Bottega in Vail Village, said about 60 percent of his December business comes from Mexican customers. The Mexican customers have been known to frequent La Bottega, as well as places like Pepi’s, the Swiss Chalet and Sweet Basil.

Adam Sutner, Vail Mountain’s marketing director, just returned from a four-day trip to Mexico last week. Vail Resorts already has a presence in the country through contract sales and public relations employees, but the company also sends U.S. employees down there about once a month during the winter season and several times throughout the offseasons to maintain the relationship with potential and existing customers.

The main purpose of Sutner’s most recent trip was to get a message across to the Mexican audience that the resort will be open for business and great skiing in the late spring this year.

Vail Resorts identified this winter’s potential scheduling problem due to a late Easter about a year ago, Sutner said. The Mexican visitors typically travel during the week before and the week after Easter. With the resort closing on Easter Sunday this year, the challenge became making sure the Mexican clients would still come to Vail.

“We’ve been doing things to mitigate any concerns the Mexican audience might have about coming here,” Sutner said.

One of the strategies has been to provide really attractive offers, and even kick off a first of its kind Spanish-language night camp for children. The camp, called Campamento de Montana, is one way Vail Mountain is extending its welcome mats to Mexican guests.

The camp, which will be held at Eagle’s Nest during the week leading up to Easter, will be held entirely in Spanish from 5 to 9 p.m. each night.

It’s that feeling of being welcome that Sutner believes has kept Mexicans coming to Vail for generations.

“Clearly, we as a community and as a mountain have done all the right things to make the Mexican community feel welcome here,” he said. “They’ve been here for generations. They’re homeowners, taxpayers. They deserve a very hearty welcome each and every time they step foot here.”

The heritage of the Mexican customers in Vail is something Sutner has tried to understand very carefully. He said it’s obviously a very powerful relationship, and the community has to continue to nurture it.

“It’s a market we should never take for granted,” Sutner said.

The economic benefit is obviously huge, especially during a recession in which Mexican business has continued to remain strong and even grow. Alejandro and Matilde Marti, of Mexico City, bought the Vail Plaza Hotel last year after the hotel’s owners could no longer keep up and remodeled it into a contemporary upscale hotel. The almost overnight success of the hotel was evidenced just this week when first lady Michelle Obama stayed there wither her children and some friends.

The Solaris Residences in Vail, which opened last year, is also the new home address for several Mexican families who have bought luxury units at the new development.

“They’re just buying up stuff left and right – they have the resources,” Virion said.

Virion said he’s definitely seen an increase in business from the Mexican market over the years, and especially in the last few years.

While Sutner wouldn’t confirm whether business this year has increased, he said the next one to three years is a time in which the marketing message to Mexico can and should become very effective and special.

“We should really look to invest in our capability to attract this market. So we are able to send a clear signal to that audience that we’re very grateful for their business, we’re thankful for it, and we’re going to work hard on continuing to get the loyalty that we have out of this audience,” Sutner said. “I think that takes a lot of work and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

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

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