What’s the impact of summer tourism?

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

All signs point to a successful summer in Snowmass Village, but the town wants to find out how local businesses fared.

Much has been written and said about the big changes felt in Snowmass’ economy this summer, which saw a jump in sales tax revenue of more than 36 percent and a similar increase in the number of room nights. That success was in large part due to an increased number of big events and group business.

Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello, who just started this fall, said she hopes to create a more “robust” survey that stakeholders respond to immediately after every event. But for now, she wanted to at least get a feel for what businesses thought of this summer and so sent out a short survey of four questions about 20 of the summer’s events.

Snowmass Tourism, a town department, considers village lodges, retail stores and restaurants to be “stakeholders.” The department sent the survey out to 162 individuals.

The first question asked stakeholders whether they saw increased occupancy or more people visiting their business during a given event, as opposed to the same weekend the year before. Events that got the most positive responses were Tough Mudder and Wanderlust, both new in 2014 and returning next year; the Snowmass Balloon Festival; Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience; and the USA Pro Challenge.

The second asked which events brought increased sales or room rates compared to the same weekend in 2013. Tough Mudder, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Wanderlust and Balloon Fest once again made the top five, but USA Pro Challenge dropped down. Snowmass Mammoth Fest and Snowmass Wine Festival tied for the fifth rank.

Something Abello noted from the survey was that some of the events that rose to the top on the fourth question — “Should this event return to Snowmass in the future?” — were not necessarily ranked high on the first two lists, such as the Snowmass Rodeo and Thursday night concerts.

“We like them, they’re valuable, but they’re not really selling rooms,” Abello said of the stakeholders’ feelings about those events.

Many of those events are already planned at least for summer 2015.

Abello said she plans to use the responses to this survey to help decide how to rate the impact of events.

“I don’t want to put too much emphasis on the results of this survey,” Abello said. “My vision for (Snowmass Tourism) … is we can be more data driven.”

Snowmass Tourism also conducted other surveys this summer, including asking lodges for the zip codes of guests who stayed with them from June 1 to Sept. 30. Only about six lodges responded, she said, but most guests were from in-state, with Texas, California and Florida the next biggest markets.

But what do visitors think? Snowmass Tourism hired RRC Associates to conduct research with guests during and after their stays this summer, looking at information like demographics, how they learned about Snowmass, what activities they participated in and their likelihood of coming back.

RRC is expected to present its findings at a public meeting soon. Meanwhile, Snowmass Tourism has already started conducting similar research on its winter guests.