Snowmass Tourism looks to close remaining gaps | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Tourism looks to close remaining gaps

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

Snowmass is looking at ways to close the gaps in both its winter and summer tourism business.

Bookings in village lodges are down 7.9 percent for the winter as of Oct. 31, said Rose Abello, director of Snowmass Tourism, on Thursday. Tourism officials have attributed the downturn to a combination of an off year with large groups such as the National Brotherhood and NASTAR championships, which rotate locations from season to season, and world economic issues affecting exchange rates for key markets such as Australia and Brazil.

The uncertainty of those economic issues has Snowmass Tourism, the town marketing, special events and group sales department, thinking about how it can offset the impact of the international market.

"This winter is interesting," said Fred Brodsky, group sales director, at a meeting of the Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board on Thursday. "What happens when international business fails us? I've never seen anything like this. Are we positioned effectively domestically to deal with this, and what should Snowmass Tourism's role be?"

In addition to those issues, Snowmass group business is suffering from a shrinking popularity of ski-club memberships and a decrease in continuing medical conferences as those start going online, Brodsky said. Members of ski clubs are aging, and younger generations who want to plan trips generally engage by doing their own research online or are keeping up with friends through social media, he added.

Ski clubs are possibly the largest percentage of Snowmass' group business, though, so the department will continue to pursue those visits and hopefully increase participation in each of them, Abello said.

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"We feel it's important to continue working these pieces of business," she said. "We need to maintain and nurture them, … but we need to look to other channels, as well."

As for summer business, this year broke more records, with more than $36.5 million in sales villagewide, a 13.3 percent increase over last summer, according to a sales tax report from the town Finance Department.

September in particular saw a big jump, with sales increasing by 32.6 percent over the same month last year. The bump was expected, though, Abello said, due to the return of the Tough Mudder endurance event, all of Labor Day weekend falling within the month and warm weather drawing leaf-peepers and recreation tourists well into October.

Special events have helped Snowmass Village draw more lodging guests and visitors on weekends in the summer, resulting in record-breaking increases in sales and occupancy numbers the past two years. But the village still has a tourism problem Sundays through Thursdays, and the current model doesn't address that, Brodsky said.

"We know we can do it on the event side on the weekend, but I don't think currently we have a good solution Sunday to Thursday," Brodsky said.

One way the department is addressing that is by working with tour operators on developing itineraries for summertime visitors to Colorado who want to see more than just the Aspen and Snowmass area. While those tours would help competitor resorts, too, Snowmass Tourism has the opportunity to tailor them to its greatest benefit, Brodsky said.

Brodsky and Abello weren't ready to say what companies or individuals they're working with on developing those tours but did say they're a couple of months out from having an offering.

Mary Harris, general manager of Timberline Condominiums, said her lodge would appreciate any extra help, but she cautioned that the local lodging industry needs to know what type of guests the tours will be courting and how much commission a third-party receptor would expect to make from overnight stays.

On the event side, Snowmass Tourism debuted its summer 2016 calendar Thursday. Successful events like Heritage Fire and Grand Cochon, AREDay and Tough Mudder have confirmed their return next year.

The department decided this fall not to bring back Snowmass Mammoth Fest, a local music and beer festival that was rebranded three years ago. Abello said Thursday that the department is close to signing agreements on a new event to host that weekend, which traditionally kicks off summer in the village.

jill@snowmasssun.com

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