Vail’s summer marketing efforts have seen mostly good results over time
By the numbers
20 percent: Increase in Vail’s summer sales tax from 2014 to 2017.
27 percent: Increase in Vail’s summer lodging tax from 2014 to 2017.
7 percent: Decline in Vail group occupancy from 2014 to 2017.
106 percent: Increase in group bookings from 2017 to 2018.*
* The town had two large hotels closed for large parts of the study period.
Source: Town of Vail
VAIL — The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council is supposed to build summer business in town. And summer business is good.
Over the past four summers — measured from May 1 to Oct. 31 — the town’s sales and lodging tax collections have both increased by more than 20 percent.
But the marketing group is being asked to cut its budget from $3.3 million this year to $3 million in 2019.
The reason is a bit of a hangover from the snow-short winter of 2017-18, along with jitters over national economic trends. That combination has led town finance director Kathleen Halloran to forecast only a modest 2.5 percent increase in overall town revenue. Council members have asked Halloran to draw up a budget based on 2 percent growth.
With that in mind, various town departments are being asked to hold the line or get by with a bit less in 2019.
At an afternoon meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, advisory council members talked about continuing to market the town in 2019 with about 10 percent less funding.
Despite the request to pare back spending, council chairwoman Beth Slifer said the district will continue to strengthen Vail’s brand position and tell “compelling and consumer-centric stories” across both traditional and online channels.
Slifer said those online channels are currently Vail’s “leg up” on other resorts, especially with younger guests.
Younger guests also include families with kids. Those families, especially ones coming in from out of state, tend to stay longer and spend more while they’re here. Slifer noted that 84 percent of those destination guests spend at least three nights in Vail.
But those relatively lengthy summer stays are eclipsed by “super boomers.” Those guests, usually empty-nest couples of the baby boom generation — those born between 1946 and 1962 — often stay more than three nights and stay during off-peak periods, including midweek, early and late summer and early fall.
Still, most summer visitors — 70 percent — come from the Front Range.
Council member Laurie Mullen said summer marketing will continue to target all of the most desired guests, but with a bit more efficiency.
Last year’s photos
Some of those efficiencies depend on work that’s already been done. Vail’s 2019 summer marketing will use photos and video shot in 2017 and this year. The Vail app doesn’t need as much support as it did in its start-up phase. The “influencer” program — which paid people to have fun in Vail and then share that fun on the internet — will use fewer people. Even as Vail Resorts is putting more effort into Panama and Central America, the town of Vail’s summer marketing program will pull back to focus only on the Mexican market.
But even with trimming the budget, the council’s budget for 2019 still finds room for creating a “long-form” video. Additionally, the town’s $200,000 contribution to the Colorado Classic will come out of the marketing district’s budget next year.
“These are not easy decisions, and I commend you for finding places to make appropriate cuts,” Mayor Dave Chapin said.
Council member Jenn Bruno noted that the district’s lighter budget for 2019 isn’t a reflection of the work that group has done, but a reaction to slower business last winter.
This is “a first swipe at a defensive posture,” council member Greg Moffet said. But, he added, if and when an economic downturn hits, he expects the advisory council to come up with a strategy that uses the town’s strong financial reserves to take business from competing resorts. A similar strategy paid off in the wake of the national economic downturn that began in 2008
“Let’s hope this is a needless adjustment,” Moffet said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”