Bon Voyage … to Summit County
BRECKENRIDGE – Michael Buckley of Leeds, England, was enjoying a burger at Tiffany’s at Beaver Run Resort Thursday, one of hundreds of Britons who decided to make Summit County their winter vacation destination this season.He and many other Britons credit the weak dollar – at a nine-year low against other currencies throughout the world – among the reasons he and his family have returned.”It’s cheaper anyway,” Buckley said of the dollar’s value against the euro. “But now, it’s like half-price.”The dollar is almost 30 percent weaker when compared to the euro. Financial experts around the globe believe the dollar will fall further in 2005 as trade and budget deficits here continue to grow.What’s bad for the United States, however, is playing out well for Summit County’s ski resorts and their international guests.Buckley said he and his friend Chris Morris, also of Leeds, purchased their vacation getaway before the dollar began to slip. But its buying power will play into their holiday plans.”It means I’ll be able to spend more money while I’m here,” he said. “I’m going to buy lots of things in the shops.”On the mens’ list are ski goggles and other assorted ski equipment, an iPod and a snowmobile outing. And they plan to spend each and every one of their 10 days in Breckenridge – except for maybe an evening of night skiing at Keystone.According to Breckenridge Resort Chamber executive director Corry Mihm, it’s too early to tell how many international visitors are in town. But she believes it’s up from the past several years when those numbers hit a plateau.She said 58 percent of international visitors are from England and 9 percent are Germany. Mexican and South American citizens follow those.”It’s been interesting,” she said. “We’ve been noticing the degree of flexibility they have. One woman had booked a five-night stay and was trying to decide what to do with the rest of her stay. She could stay here longer, try a different resort – we haven’t seen as much of that in the past. I think she ended up staying in Breckenridge longer. I’m sure the snow helped her make that decision.”Many Britons get several weeks of holiday each year, and opt to spend bigger spans of time on vacation than do Americans.James Shields, owner of Kokopelli Ski Holidays in Breckenridge, said he’s seen a 17 percent increase in bookings and revenue this winter over the past three seasons. His business has five chalets, which are popular with European visitors. One of those has been booked solid for months and another is 60 percent booked for the remainder of the season.”And we still have a good selling season to go,” Shields said of the upcoming months. “We’ve got more bookings and revenue than all of last season. It’s how it used to be before Sept. 11.”This year, the exchange rate is the main determining factor,” he added. “But global issues, Sept. 11, those have tailed off in the last year and that helps.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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