Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Vail Valley summer booking data gives reason for optimism (column) | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Vail Valley summer booking data gives reason for optimism (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

Summer's kickoff is in full swing with great events in Beaver Creek and Eagle to start our season, and with events throughout the valley providing plenty of options and activities through September. What's that mean for business?

Local lodging occupancy trends give us every reason to be positive about the summer season. Nationally, we look at the "State of the American Traveler Study," conducted quarterly by Destination Analysts Inc., to give us insight into macro trends.

Leisure travel expectations continue to be robust, with Americans exhibiting a sustained vigor in their optimism for travel in the near future. The national tracking survey showed that 37 percent of American travelers expect to take more trips for leisure in the upcoming year, on par with the record 37.9 percent who said this one year earlier. Travel spending expectations are also soaring, with 36.5 percent of travelers expecting to increase their travel budget this year. In this most recent wave of the survey, the typical traveler reported having a maximum annual travel budget of $3,865, up 6.1 percent from a year earlier.

A majority of Americans — 65.3 percent — report that leisure travel is at least somewhat of a budget priority. More than one-third — 34.8 percent — said that travel would be an "extremely high" or "high" priority budget item.

In another very positive sign for leisure travel, Americans are expecting to increase their budgets for this activity sharply this year. The typical traveler anticipates spending nearly $3,900 this year, up 6.1 percent from the previous year.

In recent years Americans have been steadily utilizing more and more resources for planning their travels. Increases have been seen in their consumption of social media, user-generated content and print resources. Use of mobile devices has, of course, also grown sharply.

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Despite rapid changes in travel planning resources, how travelers fundamentally get inspiration for the places they visit has changed minimally in recent years. Word-of-mouth is still by far the most relied-upon way people find travel inspiration. Two thirds of American travelers say they rely on the in-person opinions of friends and relatives, while nearly 30 percent get this information from social media. The internet is extremely important, of course, with 64 percent saying they get their destination inspiration from one of the three primary digital resources tracked (online media, social media or online video).

Beach destinations and resorts continue to create the highest level of overall destination excitement. Unsurprisingly, "Beach Destinations and Resorts" surpassed all other destination types. On a 100-point scale, beach destinations scored 74.9 — up 1.1 percent from 2017 — indicating high levels of eagerness to visit sun and sand. Meanwhile, U.S. National Parks — 68.2 percent — was surpassed this year by "small towns, villages and rural destinations/attractions," which had an index value of 68.5 percent.

What does this mean for mountain resorts? Colorado continues to achieve above-average growth in marketable leisure travel, seeing its overall share of marketable trips rise, jumping from 2.8 percent to 3.1 percent over the year. Overnight travel to Colorado continued to strongly outpace the national trend, increasing overall by 5 percent to 37.7 million trips.

Our opportunity locally? Continue to provide a great visitor experience, and continue to invest in events, tourism promotion,and groups and meeting business to drive our tourism industry.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.