Breckenridge Resort Chamber looks to boost Central Reservations bookings
Summit Daily News
As economic indicators begin to point to a recovery for Breckenridge’s tourism industry, town and Breckenridge Resort Chamber officials are scrambling to find ways to return the still-struggling Central Reservations to profitability. Central Reservation is a crucial booking agency for Breck’s smaller lodging companies.
The reservation system, which generated revenue for the resort chamber up until a few years ago, is a key business driver for smaller lodging companies and is the only booking agency with loyalty to Breckenridge and a well-rounded system to show first-time guests all the town’s amenities.
But the recession and the growing popularity of online booking agencies such as Travelocity and Expedia have hit Central Reservations hard, and the system is now heavily subsidized by the Town of Breckenridge with marketing dollars.
“You need to have some viability in Central Reservations to help the small lodging companies because they get lost in the clutter on the Internet,” said Breck Town Councilman Mike Dudick, who sits on the new marketing advisory committee. “We need to, as a group, figure out ways to return (Central Reservations) to profitability so all the money we have for marketing is going out in the market place.”
The town currently allocates $200,00 in marketing funds to help keep Central Reservations going, but the system will likely only need approximately $150,000 this year, according to BRC president John McMahon. McMahon said the goal for the reservations system is not necessarily to turn a profit, but just to break even.
The BRC has explored a number of options to help boost sales through the central reservations system, including, recently, a deal offering $100 in cash for bookings of four days or more between March 24 and April 25. The promotional program is being continued from November, when it corresponded with a significant increase bookings through Central Reservations, McMahon said.
The program was successful in its goal to determine whether a cash offer would influence visitor’s choice of booking agency, but the $100 offer was an out-of-pocket cost coming from marketing funding for Central Reservations.
“The goal that we had for this program was to pilot an offer and see if it could have an impact on driving business,” McMahon said. “That part it did, it achieved its goal. If we were to do this program in the future we would find ways to provide the same amount of value, but for a fraction of the cost.”
To reduce the cost of the program, the BRC would reach out to businesses in the community to support the $100 cash giveaway.
McMahon said the $100 deal is just one of many ideas to help increase bookings on the Central Reservations system.
The Breckenridge Central Reservations losses are not unique, according to McMahon, who said many mountain destination’s central booking systems have fallen on hard times.
Breckenridge’s Central Reservations has improved financially this year from last year, and there are no plans right now to shut the system down.
“That’s not a discussion certainly today and we hope that’s not even a discussion in the future,” McMahon said.
Central Reservations provides a specific service to both visitors and to Breckenridge businesses compared with other travel booking agencies because it offers a comprehensive understanding of the town and its activities, restaurants and businesses, McMahon said. The online travel agencies Central Reservations competes with don’t have the same focus on Breckenridge.
“When (visitors) book through Central Reservations we’re able to start a relationship with them so we can go back later and remind them of coming back to Breckenridge,” McMahon said. “Versus the online travel agencies, who will just say, ‘Hey, here’s a great ski vacation,’ and it could be Utah.”
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