Vail summer business on the rise |

Vail summer business on the rise

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Some local leaders and analysts are certain that a shift in summer marketing strategies helped get July’s occupancy rates back to 2008 levels – a more positive economic result than expected.

Beth Slifer, chair of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, said leaders from the town of Vail, the advisory council and Vail Resorts have done three critical things this year to help boost business – they’ve budgeted more for digital marketing, identified a consistent marketing message and created a year-round brand for Vail.

The Vail Local Marketing District’s mission is to increase offseason and summer business, proving to visitors that Vail is more than just a world-class ski resort, Slifer said.

Consultants identified a new consumer trend about two years ago that shows guests want to pursue their passions when on vacation. James Chung, of Reach Advisors, told town leaders that people want more than just a good deal on their vacation.

People want recreation, culture and entertainment, and Slifer said they found it in Vail this summer.

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“It’s the marketing board’s job to make sure potential destination visitors know we have all those opportunities,” Slifer said.

The most recent Mountain Travel Research Project data shows that Vail is doing slightly better than the mountain resort industry as a whole in summer occupancy rates, with Vail’s August occupancy rates expected to be about 2 percent higher than industry-wide rates and 12.5 percent higher than the same time last year.

Ralf Garrison, director of the Mountain Travel Research Project, said the Vail Local Marketing District has been more stable for longer than just about any other governmental group in the industry.

“Vail has proven they play well as a team, so you have to assume that’s going to show up in the results,” Garrison said. “It’s likely their efforts are producing the positive results.”

Kelli McDonald, Vail’s economic development manager, said it’s hard to measure which marketing strategies are working better than others, but at the end of the day it’s lodging occupancy and sales tax revenues that show whether the strategies have positive results.

This summer, not only are sales tax revenues and lodging occupancies up, but so are the number of people flying into the Eagle County Airport, the number of people visiting the Vail Farmer’s Market on Sundays, the numbers of cars parking in the parking structures and the number of people attending town events, McDonald said.

The increase in numbers across the board is by design, said Adam Sutner, Vail Mountain’s marketing director and a Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Board member.

“It’s not an accident,” Sutner said.

The year-round brand that the advisory board has created is that Vail is a mecca for outdoor adventure and cultural vitality, both in the winter and the summer, Sutner said.

The way the message is being spread is also a world apart from just one year ago when the website lacked a real focus. Now, the website promotes events and activities that people want to pursue, he said.

The Vail Local Marketing District has repositioned some of its print media advertising dollars for online media. The goal has been to offer the right guest the right offer at the right time without ever putting “Vail on sale,” Sutner said.

There’s a powerful agenda of events offerings, giving people things to do and reasons to come here rather than low-cost deals.

“We lead with desirability and a value that supports it, but never ever ‘on sale,'” Sutner said.

Sutner said results from surveys in which guests are interviewed throughout the summer proves it’s working. The perception that people are getting value out of their vacation has increased, he said.

What it means is that people are happy with what they’re paying for in Vail, Sutner said.

“We see a very specific cause and effect relationship,” Sutner said. “We think it’s because we’ve selected the right strategy and skillfully articulated it to our audience.”

Garrison said Vail has done a great job of creating and marketing its so-called magnets. While skiing is the winter magnet that brings people to Vail, the town has done a lot to accumulate and create summer magnets that serve as attractions for guests, Garrison said.

“I think they’re right on,” Garrison said.

Slifer said the strategy for 2011 is more of the same, although the advisory board is so encouraged by the results that Slifer suspects they’ll try some more aggressive strategies in 2011.

“We will again increase our digital marketing, and we are working with the Commission on Special Events and independent event sponsors to increase our recreational and fitness events and activities,” Slifer said.

The town of Vail is currently determining its 2011 budget, and the town’s finance department is directing the town to allocate the same amount of money for the Local Marketing District as in 2010, which was $1,745,000.

And while the summer news is positive, Garrison said it’s not necessarily an indicator of what’s to come.

“Summer success does not guarantee a strong winter,” Garrison said.

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

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