Selling Snowmass: Two major companies square off for dominance in luxury residence rental market
The competition in Snowmass Village has never been more intense for the hearts — and wallets — of travelers staying in high-end residences.
Two new players entered the property management and rental industry this winter. Both bring considerable marketing clout.
Wyndham Vacation Rentals, a company with an international presence, acquired Snowmass Lodging Co. in November. The merger added a collection of high-end condominiums and townhouses to Wyndham’s portfolio, including units at Woodrun Place, Chamonix at Woodrun, The Enclave, The Homestead and the Owl Creek Townhouses.
Wyndham said it manages more than 140 properties in Snowmass Village and has 70 in the rental pool.
Wyndham’s entry into the market came after East West Partners and Aspen Skiing Co. announced they were buying Snowmass Base Village but before they completed the transaction. When the deal was done in December, East West Partners absorbed Snowmass Hospitality property management, a former branch of The Related Companies.
East West Destination Hospitality added 40 ski-in, ski-out condominiums at Capitol Peak Lodge and Hayden Lodge, both in Snowmass Base Village, to its portfolio. It also gained the Snowmass Mountain Chalet, an older slopeside property one level below the Snowmass Mall.
Plenty of competition
East West Partners and Wyndham don’t have a corner on the market in Snowmass. They are part of the big three rental companies along with Destination Residences Snowmass, a branch of Destination Hotels. Destination Residences Snowmass has been in the market for more than 30 years and its holdings include units at the Stonebridge Inn and the Laurelwood, among others. All told, it manages and rents 400 residences in Snowmass Village.
Numerous smaller companies are fighting for a piece of the pie. Their challenge is competition with companies that can increase exposure for units in Snowmass throughout the United States and worldwide. Just as Aspen’s real estate industry has seen local companies affiliated with national and international giants, so too is the property management business.
“As competition heats up among ski destinations, the natural evolution for businesses like Snowmass Lodging Company is to join a global property management company that can better help delivering on property value and rental revenue for its owners,” said Mike George, who was president of Snowmass Lodging Co. and remained general manager after the merger.
Wyndham’s strength is international reach. Its website says it has 10,000 rental properties in North America and 108,000 properties in 600 destinations worldwide.
“As part of a leading, global hospitality brand, there are a lot of resources we leverage on behalf of our owners,” said Bill Anderson, regional vice president, Wyndham Vacation Rentals.
For example, he said, the firm has a revenue management team that evaluates market trends. That allows adjustments to marketing strategy.
Then there’s exposure. With so many customers visiting so many different places, it can use its database to past and prospective customers to suggest Snowmass Village as a vacation destination.
East West Destination Hospitality manages about 550 vacation rentals in western U.S. resort markets, according to its website, so it also can provide exposure to Snowmass Village with new clients.
Dealing with online services
Property management and rental companies have been forced in recent years to deal with the growth of online booking services.
Scott Williams, director of operations at Snowmass for East West Partners, said the firm has relationships with services “that have historically shown us the best returns” in terms of rental clients.
“The obvious upside is the increased visibility of our name and product as well as the ability to capture travelers that have developed brand loyalty to a particular service,” he said. “The downside is the additional cost.”
East West prefers to handle the reservations itself as part of a “seamless” experience. It feels it can provide a better overall experience for its guests.
“The booking services are not well versed in the nuances of our various residences, or how many steps you will be from your residences to the Elk Camp Gondola or Treehouse,” Williams said.
Wyndham’s Anderson said the company still handles the “vast majority” of bookings on its own, but views the online booking services as an asset.
“We see the increased awareness of vacation rentals that’s being generated by online listing sites as a good thing,” he said. “Beyond awareness, these sites are helping create demand.”
Prospects for growth
East West’s future is securely tied to Base Village. There are just over 100 condominium units completed, excluding the Viceroy. There are just over 300 approved in the village, congregated around the loading terminals of the Elk Camp Gondola and Village Express six-pack chairlift.
So far, Snowmass Hospitality has captured 38 percent of the units built in management and rental contracts. It if continues at that rate, it would add about 115 of the 300 new units that will be built in the next decade or so.
“I would be ecstatic,” Williams said.
For travelers, the company offers “location, location, location,” Williams said. As Base Village is built out over the next decade, it will become an increasingly more vibrant hub for the ski resort, he said.
Wyndham hopes to attract more Snowmass properties by promoting the diversity of its management services, Anderson said. “We take on the marketing and maintenance of the home and handle all aspects of guest service, from check-in to potential issues that might come up during a stay,” he said.
Representatives of both companies said the competition between them and with other companies benefits the economy of Snowmass Village.
Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello concurred. As time goes on, East West and Wyndham will expose Snowmass to new travelers.
“Having additional players in the market, especially ones with new and expanded marketing reach, will be great for Snowmass Village,” Abello said. “On average, Snowmass enjoys a very high repeat rate, so when we get new people to experience Snowmass we know that 70 to 80 percent of them will come back again — and again.”
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