Breckenridge looks to reevaluate tourism after COVID-19, likely with fewer events |

Breckenridge looks to reevaluate tourism after COVID-19, likely with fewer events

People prepare to take part in the shot ski during Ullr Fest in downtown Breckenridge on Dec. 12, 2019. Breckenridge officials are preparing to reevaluate events after the pandemic is over.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

Breckenridge Town Council and Breckenridge Tourism Office officials said Tuesday that they intend to reassess the town’s events after the pandemic, undertaking a renewed focus on what tourism office President Lucy Kay described as “responsible tourism.”

“The goal that we’ll have — and it’s consistent with other more progressive (destination-marketing organizations) — is looking for ways we can target guests whose value sets align with ours,” Kay said Tuesday. “… Figure out who are people who think about the environment, who think about other people, who think about the world in a similar way to us, and try to invite those people in first.”

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said the town’s events and resiliency committees, along with the tourism office, will continue to discuss the initiative in the coming weeks.

The mayor said it’s his personal belief that the pandemic has provided an opportunity that’s “a good reset for our community” to analyze what kind of events should take place.

“This truly is a clean slate, and I think it’s absolutely worth continuing those conversations,” council member Carol Saade said.

The concept isn’t new. Even before the pandemic, towns across Summit County were grappling with “event fatigue” among residents and working to find solutions.

“It’s a good way to look at it and say, ‘OK, what are the events that are sort of legacy events for the town? And what are the events we are — honestly — filling in space for no reason,’” Mamula said. “Town is busy anyway. There are plenty of weekends that we seem to do stuff that we don’t really need it.”

Mamula cautioned against adding lots of events in an effort to “right the economy in one summer” and noted that some people in the community might be eager to get “things to be back to where they were two years ago on Day 1” after the pandemic is over.

“We will have to push back against that feeling that we need to get back to living in crazy land,” Mamula said.

Kay agreed “there’s no rush” on the initiative because “we are still in this COVID thing for a long time.”

Kay said the tourism office plans to do another resident survey, potentially in late March or early April, to understand “what does the community really want in this new world order?”

Council members Jeffery Bergeron, Kelly Owens and Erin Gigliello said they are unsure how many events the town needs to attract visitors. Bergeron and Owens pointed to the demand the town saw on its trails last summer, when all events were canceled, as a reason for scaling back in the future.

Council member Dennis Kuhn said he’d like to see the town host a “communitywide celebration” once the pandemic is over, though he said “that’s obviously a way down the road.”

Holiday lodging dips 17%

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Kay briefed the town on lodging trends over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period.

For Dec. 15 to Jan. 3, the town was down about 17%, or 4,000 room nights, compared to the same dates last year, Kay said, adding that most of that decline came in the last two weeks of December due to many cancellations. She said numbers from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15 were “much more strong.”

As for January, she said the town is looking at a 20% decrease in room nights with a forecast of a 16% decrease for the entire winter season. Anecdotally, Kay said local lodging providers told the tourism office that lengths of stay have been shorter than typical.

Kay said the office should have better data in the next two weeks thanks to new destination marketing reports that track trends in the town via cellphone data. Kay said that could help the town more accurately quantify how many people are visiting.

Kay said the tourism office also has surveyed visitors and found the mix of people in town over the holidays was “pretty comparable to what it normally would be around Christmas.” Kay said those surveys reflected 53% of destination guests were from out of state while nearly none were from abroad — a number that is typically around 5%.

“And a lot more from Texas,” Kay said. “Texas is always our biggest market outside of Colorado, and Texas was really big this Christmas season.”

Kay also pointed to what she said is an apparent trend of more visitors to Breckenridge staying at lodging properties outside of town. The number of survey respondents who reported they were staying in Breckenridge was down to 79% this holiday season compared to 89% last year, Kay said.

Kay also said more people were booking hotels directly through lodging providers and properties, rather than intermediaries like Airbnb and VRBO. Kay thinks that’s because it’s easier for renters to cancel by booking in a more traditional fashion.

As for corornavirus-related survey questions, Kay said respondents gave a rating of 8.9 on a scale of 10 for how safe they felt in Breckenridge over the holidays. The scores were 9.3 for how well visitors were prepared for the town’s COVID-19 expectations and 8.6 for whether respondents felt protocols were appropriate.

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