Vail marketing district adjusts its focus
By the numbers
$3.25 million: Vail Local Marketing District 2016 budget
$1.1 million: Marketing budget for destination visitors.
$702,000: Budget for group meetings.
$225,000: Budget for Front Range marketing.
VAIL — Vail’s main marketing slogan makes a big promise — “Like nothing on earth.” For the most part, people agree. The challenge now is to expand the audience for that promise.
The Vail Town Council met Tuesday in its role as the Vail Local Marketing District to hear about plans to grow the resort’s existing audience.
There are complications in that goal. The town is virtually full during peak seasons and weekends, but there’s room for growth during slower times and mid-weeks.
Then there’s the fact that Vail’s core audience is aging. It’s time to attract younger guests.
District advisory board members John Dawsey and Jim Kellen, along with Ainslie Fortune and Sarah Berkheimer, of Cactus Communications, talked about some of the ideas they have for marketing Vail in the coming months.
Among the goals for the district is growing summer occupancy and sales tax collections. The group is also aiming to make destination guests — those who come from outside Colorado, and who tend to stay longer and spend more — a bigger part of the visitor mix.
Overall, the district is aiming for 60 percent destination visitors, with 11 percent international visitors. Front Range visitors are expected to make up roughly 20 percent of the visitor mix.
To build destination business, the district will aim a combination of print, broadcast and on-line advertising to Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles. The cities in Texas and California where advertising will be targeted all have direct flights into Eagle County Regional Airport this summer.
The brief spots shown to council members focused on family visits, part of a shift in who Vail’s being marketed to. That market still consists of households with a combined annual income of at least $100,000, but the targeted age group has shifted from 35 to 64 to people between 25 and 54 years old.
With changing travel trends — including less travel by members of the baby boom generation — the district hopes to draw younger families, as well as families that are traveling with both kids and grandparents.
Those younger travelers from the millennial generation — people roughly 18 to 34 years old — now make up one-third of U.S. travelers. But baby boomers still control 70 percent of the disposable income in the U.S.
While broadening the demographic reach of Vail is a continuing challenge, a big part of marketing this year is to draw people to try Vail Resorts’ new Epic Discovery summer programs, many of which will debut in June and run into early October.
Kellen, Vail Resorts’ director of marketing for Vail Mountain, said the idea behind Epic Discovery is a combination of fun and education. There will be three different passes this summer, each of which offers a different range of activities.
The “ultimate” pass will offer unlimited access to activities including a “Zip Flyer,” summer tubing, the climbing wall and more. The canopy tour will be an extra-cost addition.
The summer passes will be combined with lodging packages and sold in advance.
While passes will be available to walk-up guests, Kellen said the idea “is to drive destination (visits) with passes.”
Getting people to come to Vail for the first time is a challenge. Getting them to return can be tricky, too.
Many companies depend on an evaluation called a “net promoter score” to see how their marketing and products are working. Vail’s are generally high, but Dawsey said those scores are lower for first-time guests than for repeat visitors.
To help, Dawsey said the district continues to work on making getting around the town and the mountain easier to understand.
“Wayfinding is critical,” Dawsey said. “It all dovetails into the mountain experience.”
Kellen agreed, saying that to guests, the “town and the mountain are the same.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.