By Allen Best
Vail has success in price boost
BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Perhaps the clearest evidence of an improving economy can be found in the price increases announced by Vail Resorts.
It debuted a good-everywhere, all-the-time Epic Pass in 2008 for use at its four Colorado resorts. The cost was $479, but a new price for next winter is $649. Before the Epic Pass, a similarly unlimited season pass cost $1,849, notes the Vail Daily.
Vail Resorts chief executive Rob Katz clearly indicated the company has done well this winter, and said his company intends to continue to reinvest in its product while commanding higher prices.
Prices have stopped dropping and the freebies many resorts were loading onto deals have stopped getting thicker, but the pendulum hasn’t really started swinging the other way.
“While resorts haven’t had to increase their bargains, they haven’t been able to decrease them in any meaningful way,” he told the Daily.
He did add that the Mountain Travel Symposium, which he has conducted each April for decades, is sold out this year and wasn’t last year.
Work starts on tourism strategy
JACKSON, Wyo. – Seven people have been selected in Jackson and Teton County to devise a strategy for use of $2.1 million annually in proceeds from a new lodging tax. The tax is to be used broadly for promotion of travel and tourism,
“I really thought, by and large, that most of the people got the big-picture idea that it’s not just about bringing people in on airlines. It’s about how we create an image of Jackson Hole,” said Andy Schwartz, a county commissioner. The tax, he said, is a community revenue, not strictly a tax to benefit the hotels or the ski resorts.
Whitefish, Flathead bulk up
WHITEFISH, Mont. – The Census has confirmed what most people already knew, namely that Whitefish got a lot of new residents in the last decade, a 26 percent gain. The new population of 6,357 makes it the 14th largest city in Montana.
City Manager Chuck Stearns said he had expected the city’s population to hit 7,500. Flathead County, which also includes Kalispell, grew 22 percent. It has a total population of nearly 91,000 – larger even than Gallatin, where Bozeman and Big Sky area are located.
Whistler vets tourism themes
WHISTLER, B.C. – A report laying out how Whistler might go about developing its cultural tourism attractions and economy has been issued.
Called “A Tapestry of Place,” it identifies 115 cultural experiences that could be packaged into six different themes: 1) arts; 2) minds and mountains; 2) natural experiences; 3) culinary; 4) human heritage; 5) First Nation’s heritage; and 6) health and wellness.
The primary goal of the strategy now being established is to reach and maintain at least 60 percent annual occupancy, up from 52 percent at present. Winter numbers are higher, but summer is lower.
John Rae, manager of strategic partnerships for the city government, called the initiative “the best big thing for this community,” but warned that it’s “nothing that’s going to happen overnight.”
Affordable units nearly gone
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Critics said it would sit empty, but an 18-unit affordable housing project called Gold Run has sold 15 units, with two more under contract, reports The Telluride Watch. Something similar happened in the Vail area after 2001, when the real-estate market temporarily stalled. There was resistance to new worker housing. But by 2003 and 2004, it was back to the snare-drum story.
Incandescent loses to CFL, LED
ASPEN, Colo. – With few exceptions, the Aspen Skiing Co. is now replacing all of its incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact-fluorescent and LEDs.
The company estimates that lights account for about 15 percent of energy use at its hotels and office buildings. The replacement costs will run $100,000 to $150,000, although the new bulbs will save the company $24,000 to $35,000 in lower costs of electricity in just the first year, with similar or even greater dividends each year thereafter.
Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability, said he expected his first attempt to get CFLs installed in the Little Nell, Aspen’s five-star hotel to meet with open arms, but was told by the hotel manager the lights might dampen business.
The flipside of the story, Schendler told The Aspen Times, is that CFLs have improved considerably since that first effort, with little public objection to the light they produce.
Keep trinkets where they belong
BANFF, Alberta – Banff municipal officials have announced several proposals to the public that would more tightly regulate locations of rubber tomahawk and burger joints.
Town officials are framing the proposals as necessary to keep Banff competitive in the global tourism marketplace.“When visitors are here, the municipality’s job is to make sure they have an experience that makes them want to come back,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen. “The Chinese market does not want to buy things made in China. If they are coming, and we hope they are, they would like to buy something made in Canada.”
Banff has 27 souvenir and gift stores. A municipal review committee considered proposing a quota but instead suggests the planning commission approve new locations.
Similarly, the town review team had considered restricting fast-food restaurants to one area, kind of a municipal food court. However, the new proposal would more liberally restrict their locations to back alleys or lower and upper levels, but not allow them at regular street level.