Vail Daily column: Generational shift?
August 7, 2015
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
For most of its history, Vail's leaders have focused on providing a quality lifestyle for its full and part-time residents and visitors alike, an outdoor lifestyle, centered on the mountains, a pristine environment and cultural enrichment. Some now question whether that perspective is changing as in recent years the town leaders have spent a good deal of time and money researching how best to court the youth market (those aged between 20–35, millennials or Gen Xers) and those from 35 into their 50s, otherwise known as Gen Yers. A principle aspect of that effort has been an increasing number of special events aimed at those market segments, especially the millennials.
The focus on the youth market has been seen as an "investment" in the future as conventional wisdom predicted that the older skier generations were on the decline. While older generations may, in general, be less active as "old age" creeps up, that is a doubtful proposition when applied to Vail's residents and repeat visitors who have embraced the outdoor and cultural lifestyle that is at the heart of the Vail experience. Indeed, many of the Vail founders remain active well into their 90s and some into centenarian status.
To a significant degree, the efforts to market to the youth group have been successful in enticing that market to town, albeit with increases in congestion and, some would say, without the commensurate economic impact that justifies the consequences. Many of the youth-oriented events result in a "flash mob" occurrence where the town is filled for a relative moment and then the attendees are gone, not having spent much time or money in Vail, but with numbers that overwhelm Vail's infrastructure (since the event promoters are not required to provide parking for the events and Vail roadways are pressed to capacity and beyond).
Aside from the immediate impact, this is a long-range strategy since, lacking the financial wherewithal of their seniors, the youth market is not able to invest in the community for the most part. And, with the cost of a Vail vacation rising, especially for a winter ski trip, the youth market is increasingly pressed to invest in even a short Vail stay. This begs the question of whether focusing on this segment of the market is a prudent strategy.
There are those who suggest a better plan would be to focus on the senior market (those aged 60 and older, otherwise known as the Greatest, Silent and Boomer generations) and their international equivalents. They have the present financial resources to invest in the community and, to the extent they bring their immediate and extended families to Vail, they would build brand loyalty. It is, after all, that senior market that is once again beginning to invest in Vail as the real estate market heats up and more people decide to settle in Vail as their work life draws to a close.
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The numbers bear this out as retirees in the valley are on the increase and, according to the experts, will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Much of this growth is in the second-home owner population as new community members locate here but continue to hold on to their original residences. Focusing on that market would entail putting quality over quantity, eliminating congestion and improving Vail's infrastructure for the future.
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