Breckenridge boosts marketing funds amid economic worries |

Breckenridge boosts marketing funds amid economic worries

Robert Allen
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” Hoping to stave off a severe downturn in winter reservations, the Breckenridge Town Council this week pumped $250,000 into the town’s marketing program.

Without the money, Breckenridge businesses could see an estimated $38 million decline in lodging, retail and restaurant revenue this winter, according to the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

“It’s going to be a tough winter,” Councilman Rob Millisor said Thursday, alluding to global economic woes. “The town’s trying to be a vessel, make the difference and save the winter.”

BRC executive director John McMahon said the money will be put toward enhancing events and strategies to attract “fly and drive” visitors ” who stay longer and often spend more ” from beyond the Front Range.

Though town officials considered reducing the 2009 marketing contribution from the amount budgeted for 2008, signs of a shrinking market share led them to make adjustments.

“People we kind of see as our competition, they were all getting hurt. But we were getting hurt worse than they are,” said Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron.

In a funding proposal to council, the chamber cited research projecting the January occupancy forecast to be down 20 percent, compared with projections that occupancy rates in some rival resort towns will be down as little as 11 percent.

In addition, the town of Vail ” while making budget cuts of its own ” recently bumped up its own marketing contribution by $550,000.

Millisor said Breckenridge’s contribution to the chamber comes with the expectation that local lodging businesses will be “more aggressive on pricing,” to help make up the difference with the competition.

“Clearly there’s some really good deals out there,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s the reality of things ” and so we need to be more aggressive ourselves.”

McMahon said the “more compelling holiday packages” could certainly help.

“We never want to be a discount destination,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re giving our customers fair value … where we lie between Keystone and, say, Vail and Aspen.”

The potential $38 million loss ” projected to be $7.8 million in lodging and $30 million in retail and restaurant revenues ” were derived through third-party research, McMahon said.

“We’re trying to make (the impacts) half as bad, if not better,” he said.

The chamber is working to “drive the holiday season,” a task that’s normally unnecessary, he said.

And though the town’s recent contribution will emphasize “fly and drive” people, there is already a “considerable focus” on the Front Range, he said.

Other tactics include launching an e-mail campaign reaching up to 100,000 customers.

The Friends Welcome program will continue in 2009, but with a minimum level of support. This program includes orientations for medium-sized and smaller local businesses to encourage strategies at putting customers first, McMahon said.

“Given the choice right now, we need to protect the market share,” he said.

Town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said the $250,000 for the chamber comes from the town’s lockbox reserves.

“This is basically earmarked as funds for a rainy day,” she said, adding that the contribution will not affect other budget items.

With a potentially catastrophic situation approaching, she said, the Town Council felt the contribution was a worthy use of the reserves.

For 2009, the town intends to spend about $1.8 on marketing, up from about $1.6 million in 2008.

Bergeron said that though he voted against increasing marketing contributions for the 2006-07 season, the potential losses could be the “kiss of death” for local businesses.

“I’m not as concerned about the major players in the region getting stung,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the mom-and-pop businesses on Main Street.”

A summit among tourist-oriented business in Breckenridge is planned for Beaver Run Resort on Monday. Panelists from the ski resort, the chamber, Wells Fargo and other stakeholders will converge to discuss economic projections and ideas for adapting to an uncertain winter season.

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