Vail Valley Voices: Attracting the global customer
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for September. We 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.
The diplomatic art of trade negotiations is often preceded by exchanges of cultural and athletic delegations. By this standard, some interests in Vail are already engaged in high-stakes negotiations on a worldwide scale to attract global consumers. There are those who want to grow Vail’s economy by entering emerging international markets. The Homeowners Association is working with concurring local leaders to encourage this private-sector effort.
Media attention given to Vail’s international events is a key driver in attracting high-end destination guests, whether from domestic or foreign markets. Vail’s summer cultural program, which musically embraces a range from classical to jazz, is one of those efforts moving into the attention of aficionados in many capitals of the world. Soon, they may come to witness it first hand.
The program directors for the Bravo! music and Vail International Dance festivals, Anne-Marie McDermott and Damian Woetzel, are performers on the global stage. The New York Times gave a favorable review of world-renowned dancers performing on the stage of Vail’s Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The growing multinational audiences that attend these performances foretell the success Vail can have in attracting international guests and stellar performers to its cultural events.
Bravo! continues to grow: The Bravo! music festival reports that it will end the 2010 season with a small budget surplus and increased revenue over 2009. Increased ticket sales, especially from the Yo-Yo Ma concert, and improved gala results fueled this positive outcome. The festival managed its expenses well, and in-kind community contributions were very generous.
The 2011 budget is forecast to be more modest, due to the lack of scheduled guest performers with the notoriety of Yo-Yo Ma. Festival contributions and grant revenue will be a major factor in balancing the budget. Bravo! will be bringing back all three orchestras and a full chamber-music program. They are planning to increase their educational outreach programs to the local communities, thanks to the generosity of their patrons.
Vail International Dance Festival: The Beijing Dance/LDTX, formed in 2005, is China’s first contemporary dance company founded independently of the government. Their performance in Vail included the world premiere of “Solitude in Numbers,” by Tibetan choreographer Sang Jijia.
The dance portrays the intimate relationship among young adults shaped by the frenetic pace of urban China. Turmoil fades their youth, ending with a forlorn figure coughing hoarsely from the effects of environmental pollution – a universal message for Vail, which has its own environmental and social challenges, albeit on a far different scale.
It remains to be seen if their appearance is the first of other Chinese cultural or athletic emissaries to reach out to the Vail community.
Summer of demolition: There are few, if any, homes being built by speculators. This is, according to some in the housing industry, because of tightened finance qualifications resulting from the need to reform national affordable-housing policies.
There are those saying that it is time for the community to revisit its growth policies with respect to 2004 zoning amendments that set off an irrationally exuberant building boom.
There is a persistence of the mindset that despite broader economic realities, the boom era can be resurrected.
A review of current revenue from the town’s building permit and fees gives a strong clue as to their motivation.
Historic zoning has been suggested as one tool to protect the scale and character of Vail neighborhoods, while allowing a degree of new development.
There are those who are increasingly dissatisfied with the continued excessive urbanization of the community.
Some point to examples such as the removal of sections of trees that once screened the expanse of parked cars on the Lionshead parking structure.
This truck-stop appearance makes Lionshead a less desirable destination. The building that is to replace the trees does not accomplish the same effect, nor was an adequate attempt made to do so.
They add this to the insensitivity of a glaring white metal roof for Dobson Arena and the enforcement of inflexible parking requirements that pave over open spaces and beautiful gardens.
The broader view
Nationally, it is estimated by some analysts that the effective unemployment rate is reaching 20 percent, which includes those who are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. These conditions, according to some forecasters, are equal to the early stages of the Great Depression.
Others are saying that official unemployment numbers will continue to rise.
The federal government, according to some critics, has limited ability to stimulate economic growth and cajole the private sector into job creation.
Cash-heavy companies and financiers, rather than expand production, which adds employees, are relying on more temporary workers, investing in labor-saving devices, paying off debt and rewarding dividend investors.
While capital and credit markets for Vail small businesses remain for the most part frozen; worries over stagnation and further devaluation in the national housing markets continue to keep buyers on the sidelines.
Some analysts are saying the way to national economic recovery is to increase consumer demand.
But if consumers are worried about job security, they cut back on spending. The possibility for a downward spiral of devaluation is then created, which results in even less production, employment and consumption.
The implication of economic uncertainty for Vail and other similar resort economies is closely tied to the deleveraging attitude of its boomer-aged American property owners.
There are market forecasters reporting a trend in some winter resorts in which single-family owners are downsizing to smaller condominium properties.
Boomers are moving to protect their retirement assets. Many no longer see the need to maintain residences to accommodate their entire family on holiday. If they need additional space, they will rent.
Likewise, new consumers, it is being said, are looking for smaller units.
This presents a challenge for Vail, which has an extensive unsold inventory of luxury properties.