Vail shows strength in a survey of its winter guests

But visitors aren't thrilled with the town's parking or increasing prices

Vail mostly did well on a survey of winter guests, although people are concerned about rising prices.
Chris Dillmann | Daily archive photo

As the tourism industry evolves in a post-pandemic world, a recent survey shows Vail still receives high marks as a destination, but parking and pricing are starting to trouble guests.

Boulder-based RRC Associates conducted post-visit surveys with about 1,150 guests over the 2021-22 ski season. RRC founder Chris Cares went over the survey results with the Vail Town Council at that group’s July 19 afternoon meeting.

By the numbers
  • 73%: Guests who gave Vail a 9 or 10 on a 10-point “net promoter score” survey.
  • 6%: Decline from the 2020-21 ski season in families traveling with children 17 and younger.
  • 7%: Decline in number of guests who are “very likely” to return to Vail next winter.
  • 65%: Surveyed guests who see Vail as a “green” destination.

Source: RRC Associates

Cares called the most recent ski season “quite strong” in terms of guest satisfaction.

But the survey also found fewer guests traveling with children 17 and younger, a turnaround from the pandemic seasons.

The survey also tracked Vail’s “net promoter score,” a standard measurement of guest satisfaction. Those who provide scores of 9 or 10 on a survey are considered “promoters” for a destination. A score of 72% or more puts a business or destination in the top quarter of those that conduct surveys. Vail’s score for the winter came in with 73% of those surveyed giving top marks.

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Cares said the strong score for the season came in after lower scores seen in the season’s early days.

The survey shows that Vail is also increasingly seen as a “green” resort, with 65% of all survey respondents agreeing that the town is an environmentally friendly place.

What didn’t improve were what Cares called “problematic” scores for the level of guest service and business staffing.

Parking was another “problematic” area, earning just a 3.8 on a five-point scale.

The town’s transit system was a positive, though, with 55% of guests reporting they used that system.

In addition to parking, Cares said there’s starting to be some customer “sensitivity” to prices, adding there are “inflationary concerns” among guests.

While Vail has long been mostly a “destination” resort in which guests stay at least one night, that number rose slightly in the most recent ski season. The share of Vail visitors from Colorado declined last season, from 22% of all guests to 16%. Out-of-state visits from California increased, as did visits from New York and New Jersey.

As international travel opened up, Vail saw more season-over-season visitors from Mexico. Surveyed guests from Argentina and Canada increased from none in 2020-21 to 3% and 2%, respectively, in 2021-22.

Council member Travis Coggin asked Cares why the survey measured a slight drop in Epic Pass users in the face of town sales tax revenue increases.

Cares said skier visits were up “considerably,” over the 2020-21 season, but the number of Epic Pass holders among that group declined.

While the survey detailed the experience of winter guests, Cares’ firm is also surveying summer visitors. In that, he said, Vail is “dominating” its competitive set, even as visitor numbers decline a bit.

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