Vail Valley ready for spring break business
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – When the spring break crowds hit the Coyote Cafe, every day is like Saturday. And that’s a good thing.”We’re packed shoulder-to-shoulder during apres ski,” Coyote manager Buzz Busby said. “It lasts about 11 days and we’re just busy.”Starting about now, both families and young adults come to Vail and Beaver Creek looking for a springtime combination of snow and sun. Younger adults come, too, but even then, spring break in Vail is different than, say, Florida. The reason, other than lack of sand and surf, is why people come.”People who have that passion for skiing and snowboarding are here to do that, and that cuts down on the craziness a little,” Vail Valley Partnership Sales and Marketing Director Chris Romer said. And the young-adult crowd doesn’t come in the waves that visit warm-weather resorts.”Really, we don’t see much of a spring break crowd until (the University of Colorado) is on break,” Scott Staughton of Samana Lodge said.Vail Resorts walks that line between families and young adults, and tries to appeal to both.”We’re happy to have both segments in Vail and work hard to attract them,” Vail Mountain Sales and Marketing director Adam Sutner wrote in an e-mail. “The Vail experience is more about a shared mindset, passion and purpose than one age group or another. “We aim to ensure that marketing and communications reflect that sense and appeal equally to those who have shared passion for skiing, snowboarding and all that Vail has to offer as a world-class resort.”Staughton said his marketing isn’t so much aimed at holidays, but trying to appeal to the different nightclub audiences that come over the course of the season. That means Samana will have a couple of bands popular in Boulder play the week CU is on vacation.While spring break is traditionally time for full rooms and crowded villages, Romer said it’s crucial to try to attract people to the resorts in the current economic environment.”We’re marketing what we have,” Romer said. “We’re promoting lodging offers and trying to find last-minute leisure travelers through the web and social media.”A big part of that promotion is “geo-targeting” potential customers in markets that have direct flights into Eagle, Romer said.The Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa in Vail Village also targets some specific markets, particularly on the East Coast. Lodge general manager Frank Johnson said the hotel has a number of return guests. Last-minute bookings are important, but even loyal customers are looking for deals, Johnson said.”People on the phone think they’re the ‘Priceline negotiator,'” Johnson said, referring to TV commercials for the online booking service. And, he added, people will look elsewhere if they don’t hear something good.At the Vail Lodge & Spa, part of the deals means kids eat free in the hotel’s restaurants. The hotel will also include kids’ lift tickets as part of family lodging plans right now.The marketing has been paying off. Johnson said the lodge is close to 90 percent booked for the first three weeks of March.While spring break is a critical part of a resort business’ bottom line, it also comes toward the end of the season, when employees might be looking ahead to their own breaks.Johnson and Busby said their businesses are fortunate to have mostly veterans on their staffs.”It’s a challenge to keep the staff on their toes,” Johnson said. “But over the last 18 to 24 months we’ve really scaled back on staff, and the people we have know these last two or three weeks of gratuities are important.”At the Coyote, Busby said he has just about the same situation. And, he added, the veterans at his place are quick to work with younger employees. Busby said that’s been a little easier with some recent snowfall.”The conditions got good when we needed them to,” Busby said. “People are happier when they’re able to come to work happier.”
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