Skico aims to tap G’wood bed base |

Skico aims to tap G’wood bed base

The Aspen Skiing Co. will promote low-priced hotels in Glenwood Springs this winter to help jump-start its business and offset Aspen’s loss of small lodges.

The Skico itself is marketing lodging and lift-ticket packages more aggressively than ever in conjunction with lodges, hotels, and bed and breakfasts from Basalt to Glenwood Springs, according to Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello.

“It gives our sales staff a whole other set of options,” she said.

The Skico’s reservations arm is also promoting downvalley properties like never before for the 1999-2000 season. Aspen Central Reservations, of which the Skico owns 51 percent, will have the ability to take reservations for about six hotels and lodges in Glenwood Springs, according to ACR President Bill Tomcich.

ACR will still concentrate on filling beds in the upper valley, Tomcich stressed. But when rooms aren’t available or the customer is on a budget that doesn’t work in Aspen, they will be steered to Glenwood Springs. Economy in Aspen? Tomcich said he launched the Glenwood program this year to try to offset Aspen’s rapid loss of “economy-priced” properties. Seven lower-priced properties were taken out of the inventory last season alone – including the Buckhorn, Bell Mountain, Tipple and Alpine lodges.

In addition, the Christiania was used for Skico housing while the Maroon Creek and Heatherbed lodges were taken out of circulation by Skico minority-interest owner Gerald Hines as part of his Highlands Village project.

Tomcich said he underestimated how the loss of those properties would affect business for the Skico and the town. They accounted for only 2.3 percent of the bed inventory available through ACR, but for 14 percent of the room nights booked.

Tourists on a budget had even slimmer pickings than usual in Aspen. Maybe not coincidentally, the Skico’s business was off about 8 percent last season.

“We’re turning that business away and basically handing them to our competition on a silver platter,” said Tomcich. 200 beds in program He scrambled to find ways to provide budget-conscious customers with more options. With the blessing of ACR’s board, he negotiated a deal to make reservations for six economy-priced properties in Glenwood Springs.

About 200 beds are available through the program. If it proves successful, it could expand in future years, said Tomcich.

Mariann Virgili, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said she fully expects it to be successful. Summers are much busier than winters for Glenwood properties, so they will welcome a chance to improve occupancy levels, she said.

Average occupancy now during winters is about 60 percent in Glenwood, agree chamber officials and Tomcich.

Glenwood Springs has about 1,300 hotel rooms and an estimated 2,000 beds.

The program was outlined for members of the Aspen Lodging Association last week. Tomcich said Aspen property operators will accept the promotion of Glenwood as long as all options are first explored in Aspen with potential customers.

ACR member properties combine to own 49 percent of the organization. The central reservations business books a fairly small amount – estimated at 5 or 6 percent – of Aspen’s overall business. Skico promotes deals Separate from ACR’s new bookings options, the Skico is looking toward the downvalley market to boost its business. The Skico will sell discounted season passes to businesses that belong to the Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs chambers of commerce for the first time ever in 1999-2000.

The Skico has consistently turned down prior requests to offer downvalley dwellers a break on pass prices.

Why the change of heart? In part because the Skico needs to find new customers after an 8 percent drop in business last season – and the lower valley is one potential market.

Abello said discounted tickets have been available to downvalley hotels and lodges for years as part of something known in the travel business as “property-driven promotions.” But the Skico is more actively promoting that program with lodging properties and it will devote more marketing efforts to spreading the word about lodging options downvalley, she said.

The Skico also joined the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Among the benefits that provides, said Virgili, is a guarantee of referrals from tourists who call or stop at its Glenwood offices.

Vail Resorts, one of Aspen’s primary competitors in Colorado, has belonged to the Glenwood chamber and enjoyed the referral benefits for five years, according to Virgili.

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