SNOWMASS VILLAGE - I don't know anything about the resort hotel business. I do know about staying in one during the offseason. I learned a couple of weekends ago at our very own Snowmass Village Viceroy.
We had a great time, and the price was right. First, I'll tell you about how much we enjoyed it. The room was fantastic. The service was great. The pool and spa were up to expectations. The restaurant was superb. The ski-in, ski-out location would have been perfect, had there been any snow.
Now, for the price: It was free! I had a gift certificate that had to be used before Dec. 21. We had nothing else going on and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
One thing I learned is that a free weekend at a luxury hotel can be very expensive. We ran up a big tab at the restaurant, splurged for the valet parking, and blew through a wad of ones tipping more generously than I would have at, say, a Holiday Inn Express in Grand Junction. I'm sure it could have been a good teaching moment for an upper-level psychology course.
If you have ever received something for nothing, you know what I am talking about. Since we got our room for free, we felt freer to spend on everything else. Unlike tourists who most likely want to go out and explore the town that we are already overly familiar with, we looked forward to keeping our coats in the closet and riding the elevator down to the hotel restaurant. I was tempted to wear the slippers and bathrobe that came with the room, just to squeeze every last bit of freeness out of our deal. I'm sure the people working at the restaurant would have been happy about that, despite their likely initial reactions, because that extra perk probably would have left me feeling like yet another bottle of wine ordered somewhere off the middle of the wine list.
So comfortable with our free room were we that we ended up spending more on all the extras we enjoyed at the hotel than we would have spent at any hotel anywhere in the world, except if we won a free trip to some exotic place.
Believe it or not, I'm not here to complain about this unforeseen turn of events. It gave me an idea for not only getting people to come here, but also getting people to spend their money here. And, ironically, it has nothing to do with enticing them to come here by giving them, of all things, free luxury hotel rooms.
My idea is far more all-American than that. I think we should invite guests to come here to actually earn their "free" rooms. What happens if you simply offer a potential visitor a free hotel room anywhere in the Village? That's right. They'll jump at it, and then go into Aspen to dine and shop before coming back here to sleep in their free room only after they are out of money and exhausted.
Here's what I think might work better for us: charge people full-boat rack rate, even in the offseason. If the cost of a room is 800 bucks a night, the visitor will know he is getting an awesome room. But, you ask, who is going to pay $800 a night to come here in November, or even in the summer, for that matter? Well, I think they will if you give them a chance to work off the cost of that room. How? By eating and drinking, of course!
Instead of lowering the offseason room rate to $200 a night and handing guests a 20-percent-off meal voucher with the check-in maps and paperwork, you keep the rate at $800, but you give the guest a $2 credit off that rack rate for every dollar they spend in the restaurant, bar, spa, gift shop, etc. If they spend 400 bucks on this other stuff, the room ends up being free anyway, but you've hauled in more money, your guests feel they've really finagled something for nothing, and they have more fully enjoyed all the amenities you offer. I'm sure someone could figure out a similar incentive that would work for the Village in general.
Of course, this idea might not work at all. But, at least we know it will work as well as anything else we've tried.
Roger Marolt knows that it is possible to go broke taking advantage of good deals. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org