Vail Valley Voices: Vail rises to marketing challenge |

Vail Valley Voices: Vail rises to marketing challenge

Beth Slifer
Vail, CO, Colorado

For many years, the primary engines of the Vail economy have been tourism and the construction and real estate sectors. Today’s reality is that both have been caught in the current economic turmoil. Although we hope we have reached bottom, most prognosticators predict a slow recovery to a different “normal.”

With sales tax revenues at our mountain resort competitors down 20-30 percent, maintaining status quo is not a great option. Vail has suffered less than other mountain resorts, with a 15 percent decline in year-to-date sales tax revenues. This was in part because the town came together to focus marketing on the value-driven “All the Love” campaign to attract more Front Range traffic. But the effort to gain market share, retain loyal customers, and create long-term value is a never-ending challenge.

The Vail Local Marketing District is the legally constituted organization charged with deploying the 1.4 percent lodging tax from hotel and condo bookings, which funds our marketing efforts to attract more visitors outside the winter season. The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council hasn’t lost sight that the highest return possible from marketing efforts is still the destination visitor, who books lodging, eats out, shops in our stores, indulges in recreational activities and returns for future vacations.

Their engagement with Vail generates wages and profits distributed throughout the community, as well as sales tax revenue, which partially funds the services that residents and visitors require and enjoy.

For the destination visitor, the advisory council concurs with Vail Resorts that we need to demonstrate that Vail is indeed “Like No Place on Earth.” Our intent is to extend the brand equity of America’s premier ski resort into America’s No. 1 year-round mountain resort.

Those of us already here know that Vail is truly exceptional when it comes to outdoor sports and recreation.

The advisory council has also come to realize that there is a fundamental shift appearing in the consumer market, with an increasing portion of consumers’ time and money allocated towards health and wellness.

It’s actually one of the very few categories of discretionary consumer spending where sales have not dropped during this economic downturn, and it’s poised for significant growth ahead.

Our latest consumer research is indicating that we just came out of the “Decade of Luxury” and are now entering the “Decade of Total Wellness,” and a key piece of that is how an increasing number of mountain vacationers are viewing their passion for outdoor sports and recreation as a critical component of their health and wellness pursuits, just as it is for many of us already here.

Fortunately, Vail is uniquely positioned to provide the assets, support and environment for vacationers who wish to pursue these passions. Our list of assets is special in its length and depth. We’re fortunate to have a unique infrastructure of health-care assets ranging from the Vail Valley Medical Center, the Steadman Hawkins Clinic and Foundation, Howard Head Physical Therapy, among others, that other resorts aren’t fortunate enough to have.

We have numerous elite and world-class athletes, some of whom are working with the marketing district in helping shape this quest for Vail to be the nation’s No. 1 resort at the confluence of outdoor recreation and wellness. We have fantastic blue skies, ideal temperatures, and a multitude of resources for enjoying recreational sports and the pursuit of total wellness. In addition, we have a growing collaboration with Vail Resorts to increase awareness of Vail as a year-round destination for active vacationers who are passionate about their pursuit of transformational vacation experiences.

We have a supportive and proactive Vail Town Council, a lodging tax that gives us the ability to market better than other mountain resorts, and a team of excellent marketing professionals coordinating our efforts.

We have dozens in the community who are volunteering their time to help establish Vail the nation’s mecca for recreational sports and wellness, just as demand for that confluence is growing in the national consciousness. We’ve seen how mutually successful partnerships such as the Teva Mountain Games can work to strengthen otherwise slow periods of our summer season. And all of these points aren’t lost on other potential partners in sports and wellness that are starting to view Vail’s efforts as something worthy of consideration.

The marketing district’s advisory council is actively exploring options with leading organizations in sports and wellness that share our vision and want to use Vail as a platform to grow their brand objectives.

In exchange, these partnerships are a path for Vail to put more heads in beds and generate more sales (and the subsequent sales tax revenue) that fund a large portion of the services that Vail’s residents and visitors need and enjoy. Some of these partnerships might result in increased visitation through new events, better programming, large groups, or a stream of smaller repeat bookings with Vail as their destination of choice.

Co-marketing partnerships is an objective that enables partners to leverage Vail’s cache while helping us extend our reach to more potential visitors. It will be different for each partner that establishes a presence in Vail, as we work to make Vail the most partner-friendly community in America for organizations that share our vision to expand participation in sports and wellness.

We welcome participation from more citizens and organizations interested in helping us shape this future. We look forward to announcing some exciting developments as our partnerships discussions become commitments, and we look forward to stronger summer and fall seasons ahead, regardless of the economic environment.

Beth Slifer is the chairwoman of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.

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