Vail Valley’s Welcome Home program making progress
Project intends to bring second-home owners to the valley for longer stays to bolster economic recovery
Even after its launch in May, Jeremy Rietmann is a little surprised his late-night idea has caught on in the valley.
Reitmann, Gypsum’s town manager, thought up an idea that became the valley’s Welcome Home program in a flash of late-night inspiration. The idea is to invite second-home owners to come to the Vail Valley for a season instead of a week or two, thereby helping reinvigorate the local economy. The owners, in turn, have a chance to get away from the cities where most live, and out into a more relaxed environment.
The Vail Valley Partnership and local real estate companies latched onto the idea and have been promoting it. More advertising and outreach is coming this summer.
So far, the results have been promising.
Flying in, staying longer
The Vail Valley Jet Center is the Eagle County Regional Airport’s hub for private jets.
There, general manager Paul Gordon said he’s seen business starting to come back. Like most valley businesses, April was a tough month at the Jet Center, with business down nearly 80% from the previous year. Through June, business is at about 80% of the normal rate, Gordon said.
Traffic may be down, but Gordon said much of that is due to people coming for longer stays.
As part of the effort to attract visitors, Gordon said the Jet Center has gone all-in on cleanliness. NetJets, one of the leading subscription services for private jets, has a program to ensure that aircraft are cleaned before and after every use.
On the ground in Gypsum, Gordon said the Jet Center has its own cleaning program. Pilots, passengers and employees are all required to wear masks in the facility.
This time of year, a number of second-home owners play a good bit of golf in the valley — a sport that’s easily adapted to social distancing.
At the Eagle Springs Golf Course, a private club just east of Wolcott, Mike Steiner said play at the course isn’t up from last year, but added the facility is more busy than expected.
Members are wearing masks and giving each other plenty of space, Steiner said. No large gatherings are being held, and everyone who crosses the covered bridge over the Eagle River into the club has to have his or her temperature checked.
Steiner added that he expects people to stay a little longer into the fall this year, perhaps due to longer stays in second homes.
No problem with capacity
While it appears that more people are staying a little longer on their visits, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said the community, especially in the resort areas, is built for its busiest time.
“We’re prepared for as many second-home owners who want to home here,” Romer said. “Our carrying capacity is much larger than our population.
Romer said early feedback from the program is positive, and the effort’s “natural ambassadors,” including property managers, real estate agents, nonprofit groups and others, are enthusiastic about welcoming second-home owners to the valley.
The Welcome Home website has had more than 1,000 visits so far, fueled entirely by word of mouth.
In addition to reaching out to current owners — those who have already invested in the community — Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate President and employing broker John Pfeiffer said that company is seeing a lot of business from people who want to become part of the community.
“A lot of our owners are here now,” Pfeiffer said. “But we’re having near-record weeks for this time of year.
“People have realized they can work remotely,” Pfeiffer added. “What was once a two-week second-home local is becoming someone who’s here for months, or permanently.”
Pfeiffer added that people coming for a season, or more, “bring more sense of community.” More people enjoying the valley will add to that, he said.
And, with the loss of many of the valley’s traditional events, Pfeiffer said people are finding new, more socially distant, activities.
“People are having to learn a new valley,” Pfeiffer said. “There’s a lot more than just the normal events.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.