Vail Valley Voices: A new niche for Vail |

Vail Valley Voices: A new niche for Vail

Vail Homeowners Association
Vail, CO Colorado

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report in February. We plan to publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town.

This will be the first winter season when the community’s new inventory of high-end destination hotels and resort residential properties will be in operation. Some are concerned that these properties will follow the practice of many established domestic market lodges of “slipstreaming,” undercutting other higher end properties by lowering room rates in order to gain higher occupancy. They believe that this would have a negative effect on the productivity of aggressive international marketing initiatives such as the one put in place by Vail Resorts.

There are those who are anxious that slipstreaming could suck away the opportunity for the new higher end properties to be competitive. The practice, if it continues, could put a serious drag on the pace of Vail’s post-recession economic recovery. Slipstreaming flies in the face of the community’s long-planned economic and redevelopment strategy to elevate Vail to a competitive level well above any other North American mountain resort.

Proponents who argue for more aggressive pricing say that, because of its international reputation and appeal, Vail is one of the few resorts that can command premium prices well beyond its competitors. They worry that to bring new high-end properties into the market at bargain basement prices could permanently set back Vail’s recovery. The performance of the community’s existing and new internationally connected grand hotels and luxury residential properties will be closely observed over the winter season by business analysts.

It is reportedly the goal of Vail Resorts to increase its market share for Vail through a greater reliance upon the overnight destination guest. New to the ski company’s marketing equation is an increased emphasis on promoting destination international business primarily from Latin American, Canada and Australia. A weakness in the dollar to the Euro is also a plus in attracting guests from Europe. Direct flights into the Eagle County airport from major domestic and international hubs throughout the United States will offer service levels comparable to last year’s ski season.

Vail Mountain opened the ski season to excellent snow, the biggest party, and the largest expanse (52 percent) of skiable terrain in memory. The image of skiers reveling in untracked powder was amplified with a large menu of crowd-generating rock music events both on the mountain and in the resort. The opening day festivities drew in sizable crowds of local skiers kicking off a season that could see one of Vail’s most aggressive global marketing efforts ever. A preseason promotion hosting a training camp for the U.S. and other international ski teams put Vail in a competitive lead in grabbing the public’s attention. Equally, snow laden imagery circulated world round were attention getters for the season ahead.

The broader view

Vail is one of the few resort communities that have globally desirable attributes sufficient to leapfrog over the limitations of the national economy. A move to high-end international tourism is a niche market that other mountain resorts covet, but few can accomplish as readily as Vail. There remains in the community’s business leadership a hesitancy to break with the belief that a deeply entrenched local development and construction industry will no longer be a potent economic force for some time to come, particularly if private sector efforts to plan for long-term development growth are rebuffed by Town officials.

Few in business leadership positions have professional experience in international business and even fewer are comfortable in navigating the interpersonal nuances necessary in serving a multicultural clientele. There is much retooling and refinement that needs to be done before Vail can feel comfortable in its emerging role as an international mountain resort community. More needs to be understood by the community about its stature as a national emblem and as a global icon. Importantly, Vail needs to understand how national and international events are shaping its future.

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