Vail Marketing District takes over its own data collection
Marketing district and Vail Resorts had a longtime partnership; now each is going its own way
- Those who sign on to the town’s free wifi system.
- Lodge databases.
- Business databases.
- The Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Chamber & Business Association’s destination marketing and other database information.
VAIL — People have worked to grow the non-winter share of Vail’s revenue since the resort’s earliest days. There’s a new effort building to better use data from guests and potential guests.
The Vail Local Marketing District — funded by a lodging tax — has in the past worked with Vail Resorts for online marketing efforts. Starting in 2020, the district will go it alone.
This isn’t a divorce, but a reflection of reality. Vail Resorts’ troves of customer data is focused primarily on winter guests. The marketing district is focused on the rest of the year.
“Vail Resorts’ objectives are theirs, and ours are ours,” Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said, adding that some, but not all, of those objectives overlap.
Vlaar added that there are also “limitations” to what Vail Resorts can share with the town.
With that in mind, the Vail Town Council on Sept. 3 approved adding $310,000 to the district’s 2019 budget, with the money coming from district reserves. That money will pay for developing a website, licensing and paying a third party for data.
The system is expected to be running by March of 2020.
More than targeting
Vlaar said the new system is about more than simply targeting prospective guests.
“It’s about understanding the behavior of guests online,” Vlaar said. “We want to touch (guests) from the beginning of summer all the way toward booking (a visit).”
Laurie Mullen, a vice chairwoman with the Vail Local Marketing District, has been deeply involved with helping develop the new plan.
Mullen had spent about 20 years in hospitality before becoming a co-owner of West Vail Liquor Mart. She said she’s kept up with developments in the fields of customer relationship management and database management platforms.
“I’ve always felt (data management) was really important,” Mullen said, especially when trying to bring people to a resort town.
“One of the key areas is we need a complete understanding of our audience, and we haven’t had control of the database,” Mullen said.
Mullen noted that the data partnership with Vail Resorts dates back “at least” 10 years. In that time, the resort company and marketing district have evolved, and that full partnership doesn’t work as well as it could.
“We can be more effective, but only if (we) have the data,” Mullen said.
The idea, Vlaar added, is to ensure that the district is speaking to the “right person at the right time.”
That includes both current and potential guests. To work with current guests, the town’s free Wi-Fi system will soon require guest information when they sign in. The new system will also use data from the Vail Valley Partnership, which is a destination marketing organization.
The new system will also provide the flexibility to target both individual and group travelers. Group business is seen as the most effective way to boost occupancy during mid-week periods.
What about groups?
During the Sept. 3 council presentation, Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet asked if the district will put more effort into working to secure more group business.
Beth Slifer, chairwoman of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, said that’s a possibility.
But, she added, “We have a facility issue.” Vail needs more facilities and improved existing facilities to truly expand the reach to business and other groups.
While the marketing district and resort company are going their own ways on most of their data partnerships, Mullen said the two will still work together on social media and marketing to international guests.
The district and the resort company also share an advertising agency, Denver-based Cactus
While the town and resort company have differing goals for their marketing, it’s now easier than ever for the marketing district to go its own way.
“It used to cost a lot more to do this on your own,” Mullen said.
The new system will allow the marketing district to more specifically target people Mullen called “non-ski” guests.
Working with Vail Resorts, “we haven’t known who we were speaking to,” she said, referring to potential guests.
If the project is done on schedule in March, Mullen said that’s the time when the marketing district can start sending out specific summer information with events and dates attached.
“That’s when people start planning,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.