Vail Valley Voices: Appealing to the world
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for May. 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. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com
Founders wanted Vail to be an international resort: The founders of Vail established a principle that the community was to be developed in the image of the European winter resort so that it could benefit by attracting both domestic and international destination guests.
Their desire was to create an ambiance for the community and ski mountain that was familiar to those who had enjoyed, or desired to enjoy in North America, the best aspects of European ski resorts.
Vail’s success with European markets was and remains enhanced through hosting international Alpine skiing competitions. It is reported that the percentage of Vail’s winter international destination guest market typically hovers around 10 percent. Fifty percent of the area’s total destination guest market arrives by air, according to industry consultants.
Formula for success: Vail’s effort to effectively attract new markets, European or others, according to one well experienced Vail marketing executive, needs to have the following factors in place:
• Advantageous exchange rate.
• Competitive pricing with continental resorts.
• Four and five star hotels with incredible kitchens.
• Diversity of outstanding restaurants and retail stores.
• Memorable atmosphere, design and architecture.
• Novelty and uniqueness of experiences.
• Personal treatment and safety.
• Accessibility by air.
Interestingly, this marketing executive advises that Vail should not make it too easy to get here. People, particularly world travelers, enjoy the challenge of going to foreign places and finding their way around on their own terms. There are other travel professionals who disagree with this view.
Nonetheless, everyone wants to be treated as “special,” says the marketer. Within this context, their personal safety is a paramount health and wellness concern.
Of particular note is the extent to which some winter sports enthusiasts are now going to protect their personal safety. A local sport equipment retailer reports that they have seen this ski season, a tripling of protective helmet sales. Their hottest selling item is a $380 body armor suit. This is an indication, in the executive’s view, of a need to further temper aggressive behavior and relieve congested areas on the mountain.
Two-pronged approach needed: The executive says that Vail should take a two-pronged approach to attracting destination visitors.
The first prong should be to reacquaint existing customers to what post-redevelopment Vail offers. The word should spread rapidly as contemporary peer and social networking communications take hold. Importantly, customer development should not be aimed at traditional forms of mass marketing. There is a need to reassert Vail as an exclusive high-end resort and reverse what some see as a trend toward a day-skier area.
The second prong should be improving the quality of the consumer’s experience, once they have arrived in Vail, by weaving more cosmopolitan complexity and multi-generational specialization into their stay in Vail.
The refining and furtherance of the community’s cultural, entertainment, outdoor sports and health-and-wellness agendas all fall within this class of experiences.
Vail Resorts and larger lodging operations like the Sonnenalp Hotel have ongoing European marketing efforts with supporting relationships to travel agencies and other services, which potentially can be scaled up should incentives exist to increase market share. These incentives now exist because Vail’s long awaited large inventory of new high-end destination guest accommodations is coming on-line.
Need for private sector initiative: There are those working to upscale Vail’s image to reflect and promote the potential of these new facilities with both its traditional and potential markets.
However, the existing organizational and institutional arrangement to promote the community will more than likely change to account for an expanded power center composed of lodging properties with broad national and international reach.