Our View: Locals’ warmth could help thaw economy | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Locals’ warmth could help thaw economy

The holiday season and the start of Steamboat Springs' winter air service program can't come soon enough for area businesses hungry for customers and sales. And although there's some reason for optimism about 2009-10 winter tourism, by no means are we under the impression that the economy has turned around.

That means another challenging season could be in store for Steamboat businesses. It also means making the extra effort to perpetuate Steamboat's brand in the resort marketplace has never been more important.

Andy Wirth, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s vice president of sales and marketing, drove that point home during a Business Outlook Breakfast hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association late last week. Wirth first shared some bits of positive news, including strong bookings for the next three weeks and a prediction that December bookings will finish about 10 percent ahead of last year's numbers. Wirth also pointed to a gradual increase in consumer confidence as reason for optimism, and he told the audience of community business leaders that Steamboat remains well-positioned in the marketplace, where it remains 12 to 15 points ahead of its competition.

But perhaps his most important point was this: Many of the vacationers who already have booked travel to Steamboat Springs for this winter are repeat visitors. There may be a variety of factors that led to their decision to come to the Yampa Valley for a ski vacation, but one of them almost certainly was our unique brand as a friendly, unassuming and welcoming resort community.

That brand is what defines Steamboat in the marketplace, and maintaining that brand is what can ensure our future success. Although many residents might feel it's hokey or not their responsibility to be friendly to guests of our community, they couldn't be more wrong. Here's why: Guests who have a good experience here are likely to return and to tell their friends and family about Steamboat. Each time they visit, they spend money in our restaurants, hotels and shops — particularly if they feel welcomed and valued in those individual businesses. If they fall in love with Steamboat — like many of us did before moving here — they might purchase a timeshare or second home. That purchase creates demand for other sectors of our local economy, such as construction, which in turn fuels many other businesses and jobs. And 'round it goes.

It's a cycle whose significance to our economic health can't be understated. As Wirth told Friday's gathering, discounted airfares and lodging might bring them in the door, but it takes cooperation and a shared sense of responsibility from our entire community to motivate visitors to spend money and return in future years. Programs such as the Chamber's Spurs on Service hospitality training will continue to make a difference, but nothing will have the impact of each of us sharing our enthusiasm about the place we live with those who choose to spend their hard-earned money vacationing here.

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