Vail Valley championships to drive international business?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – With proof that previous World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail helped increase destination business in the years that followed, it seems like a no-brainer for the town of Vail to throw money at the 2015 Championships.
Except 2015 is a much different animal than 1989 and 1999, mainly because the town of Vail is merely the celebration center, not the racing arena. A shaky and uncertain economy also plays a role in trying to draw expectations for the event.
It’s a hard fact to accept for many Vail officials who know what a big deal the 2015 Championships are going to be for the valley, which is why they want to make sure they’re getting something out of the $1.25 million they’re being asked to contribute.
Beaver Creek, which will host all of the races is 2015, is being asked to contribute $2.5 million.
“With anything of that scale, we have to make sure there’s a return on investment,” said Vail Homeowner’s Association Executive Director Jim Lamont.
The Vail Valley Foundation, the event’s host, has set a budget of $45 million for the 2015 Championships, and it’s money Lamont said the valley needs to start trying to get back sooner rather than later.
“It’s not four years away, it’s now,” he said.
Vail Councilman Andy Daly was focused on the town’s return on investment at the Vail Town Council meeting Tuesday, citing a need to know exactly what the town of Vail would get out of their investment in order to truly justify it to the taxpayers.
Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz told Daly the event is, in fact, four years out and many of the details are not yet known.
International destination business is the bread and butter for both Vail Mountain and the town of Vail. International guests stay in town longer and spend more money, and the recession has produced a less-than-desired amount of destination travelers in Vail.
Vail Councilman Kevin Foley said the buzz around Vail has to be as big as it is for Beaver Creek for the 2015 Championships, which are officially being called the 2015 Vail Beaver Creek World Alpine Ski Championships.
While the council implied it would contribute the first installment of the five-year payout of $1.25 million, the general feeling among members was to make sure Vail isn’t in the shadows of the races at Beaver Creek.
Foley remembers the spike in international business that followed 1989 and 1999, and said the opportunity to grow that business again after 2015 is invaluable.
“In 1989 when it first came through, I was amazed at the number of international guests that not only came for the event, but in that next couple of years, we saw an influx of people,” Foley said.
An economic impact study done following the 1999 championships showed a 17 percent increase in lodging occupancy rates from 1998 to 1999, and sales tax revenue increases at a time when the neighboring resorts of Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge and Aspen all saw 10 percent decreases, according to a Vail Valley Foundation report.
A team of MBA researchers from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business reported last year that a World Championships or Winter Olympics are the best chance for Vail to become better known worldwide.
The study of the impacts of the 1999 championships showed that an estimated 400 million people watched broadcasts of the event in 45 countries. The television impact alone was probably the most successful aspect of the exposure Vail received, according to the foundation’s report.
The Vail Valley Foundation presented the town of Vail with its expected impacts from the 2015 Championships, which include an infusion of revenue from outside the community, growth in future customers, and the reinforcement of the image that Vail is a world-class ski resort.
“The operations budget for the 2015 effort exceeds $45 million. Of this, over $34 million will come from outside our community,” the foundation’s report states. “It is also expected that much of this revenue will be spent with services and business in Eagle County.”
But before those revenues start coming in, community members like Lamont think the priming of the pump needs to happen now.
Lamont said he sees where Daly was going when he was pressing Folz about the details of promotional materials.
“All the promotional material is really the issue, and we could start doing that now,” Lamont said. “That would begin to build asset value right away. We could be selling the new image of Vail and we could do it year-round with these tags for 2015. Don’t wait for the bump after – start taking advantage of the global marketing effect now.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.