Vail marketing district adjusts its aim
By the numbers
$115.2 billion: Estimated U.S. luxury spending in 2015
2.1 billion: Estimated domestic airline trips in 2015.
$3.25 million: Vail Local Marketing District budget for 2016.
64 percent: Destination visitors to Vail so far this summer.
VAIL — Summer sales tax collections here have set new records during the past few years. It’s the Vail Local Marketing District’s job to keep that good thing growing.
The district, which relies mostly on a dedicated lodging tax, has a simple job — grow tourism between May and October. Those efforts have been successful throughout the past several years, but the slices of the economic pie are still split about the same way they always have been. The resort’s winter growth means that ski season still accounts for about 70 percent of Vail’s sales tax collections.
For 2016, the district will have a budget of about $3.25 million. It’s the job of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council to decide how best to use that money.
Sitting as the district’s governing board, the Vail Town Council recently gave preliminary approval to next year’s business plan. That plan has a few significant changes, and hopes to be the start of bigger goals for summer business.
The goals include growing group business, the percentage of destination visitors — those who come from out of state — and building international visits.
“International visitors are very important,” advisory council chairwoman Beth Slifer said, adding that visitors from other countries tend to stay longer and spend more while they’re here.
The district hopes that international visitors will make up 15 percent of Vail’s guest mix by 2020. International visitors made up 9 percent of summer visitors in 2014.
Growing Group Business
The district plan also anticipates growing group business — from corporate gatherings to family reunions.
That business has dipped 15 percent this year, due to several factors.
Speaking to the town council at its Sept. 1 meeting, Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said some groups that shift annual meeting locations every year didn’t return in 2015. The Partnership, which recruits group business, also was without an employee to do that work during a key booking window, he said.
Perhaps the biggest shift in the district’s focus, though, is the age group it aims its marketing toward.
Calling All Millennials
For years, the target audience has been people between 35 and 64 years old. Starting next year, the district will focus more on the 25 to 54 age group. That demographic group includes the so-called millennial generation, people born roughly from the early 1980s to about 2000.
While that group doesn’t yet have the spending power of the Baby Boom generation — people born from about 1946 to 1962 — millennials are important for a couple of big reasons.
First, while they earn less, the district’s research shows that millennials right now spend about double what Boomers do on travel.
Second, millennials have a big influence on travel decisions made by friends and families.
Getting the Word Out
Vail is well-positioned to take advantage of multi-generational groups, Slifer said.
“We don’t have to change anything about Vail, but we need to get the word out,” she added.
Slifer said getting that word out now is much more cost-effective than when she first started working on summer marketing more than 20 years ago. Back then, marketing was limited largely to print and TV, both of which were, and are, expensive.
Social media and email allow marketing to be more targeted and nimble today, Slifer said.
“If we can detect changes in the audiences, we can make changes on the websites or send out (email) as often as weekly,” she said.
And, since summer marketing has had a dedicated funding source for the past several years, Slifer said planning for the future is easier than it once was.
“It’s been a huge boon,” she said. “It’s a huge advantage we have over the past, and over a number of other resorts.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.