Skico to focus on international guests in the upcoming season |

Skico to focus on international guests in the upcoming season

Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan talks during the Afternoon Blend and ACRA Tourism Outlook on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Aspen Meadows Resort. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Skico plans to focus on international marketing and sales in the coming tourism season, it announced Tuesday at the Afternoon Blend and ACRA Tourism Outlook event at Aspen Meadows.

Aspen Skiing Co. CEO and President Mike Kaplan took the stage for his final Afternoon Blend event, where he both reflected on his time at Skico and shared goals for the upcoming season.

“Our goals this year are really about retention of that customer, that loyal guest, make sure we’re delivering the service they expect, the experience they expect and then get international business back. It’s all about getting that international customer back,” he said.

In the 2020-21 season, the focus was on getting open and staying open. The 2021-22 season focused on getting open at capacity and staying open. This year, the first “normal” season back, is more ambitious.

“I think this year it is important not to fight last year’s battle. And, I think this year, it is going to be more about customer acquisition,” Kaplan said.

Kristi Kavanaugh, vice president of global sales, said that while domestic travel trends from 2019 have shown peaks on Saturdays, international travel trends from the same year showed peaks in January.

“Peak is not just a given, and you’ve got to work for every single dime. You’ve got to work for every single visitor, and that’s in the form of services. It’s in the form of grooming our mountains, support, investing in our properties, having your services at your restaurant, whatever the case may be,” she said. “We don’t ever want to lose sight or take for granted what our peak looks like.”

Kristi Kavanaugh, VP of global sales for Aspen Skiing Co., talks during the Afternoon Blend and ACRA Tourism Outlook on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Aspen Meadows Resort.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

According to Kavanaugh, this winter’s occupancy rates are above the competition. The pace by month shows Skico is down in the early season, but, for later, the numbers are up, with January being the highest at nearly 30%. Additionally, this year they are pacing 16.8% upward in average daily rate, where a normal year is anywhere from 1%-5% growth.

She also noted they have gotten used to their repeat guests who know where to go and what to do. This year, they expect a lot of new guests who don’t know the ropes or slopes quite as well.

“I think it caught us a little off guard last year,” she said. “The changing landscape of the guests is something to be prepared for in our training and our screening of the guests, in the communication center because that — to me — is going to be quite different.”

Kaplan is set to retire from Skico in April 2023. He said they have not named his successor as of yet, but plan to do so in the next few months.

“We are mind, body, and spirit. We are a destination resort who welcomes people. We’re a place for locals; we’re a place for international visitors; we’re a place for Ikon Pass holders and the high value guests,” Kaplan said. “And, I do believe it’s one of those things where we offer this opportunity to pursue what I call a meaningful life, and that is, as I look back, is really powerful and really one that has me moving on with no regrets.”

The event also featured a presentation from the Colorado Tourism Office, where they discussed shared industry priorities, and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which shared a recap of the past few years of tourism.