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Summer conference business looks strong

KIM MARQUIS

BRECKENRIDGE – If Breckenridge ever had parking worries, this summer will be the time to confirm whether they are substantiated as a parade of motorheads begins to arrive in town this weekend.The Great Race, a cross-country motorcade of antique automobiles, will make a stop in Breckenridge Saturday as the first in a succession of conference groups planning to stay in the area this summer.Cory Mihm, executive director of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber, said summer bookings for conference groups like the Great Race participants are looking strong. This month, reservations are up 41 percent over June of 2003, and more than 15,000 tourists will stay in town this month. Mihm said July bookings are flat compared to last year and August is down by 35 percent. But like independent travelers, groups are making more last-minute reservations than in years past.At Copper Mountain, the resort is on pace to realize a record summer in its conference service business. Insurance agents, professionals from the technology sector, educators and sales managers are set to fill the resort’s conference facilities and lodging rooms through October.Every bit of meeting space throughout the resort is booked through July 4, and reservations are up 60 percent over last year.”This will definitely be a record conference summer for us,” said Carol Schmidt, director of sales at Copper. The trend in last-minute planning is seen at other conference centers in the area. “A lot of (the reservations) are very close-in on the individual side and the group side,” said Bruce Horii, director of sales and marketing for Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge. “We’re still getting group requests for July and August. It used to be done earlier.” Horii said the new trend to book later leaves room for optimism in projecting the area’s summer business. Beaver Run’s reservations are off this month compared to last year by 15 percent, but reservations for the rest of the summer are on par with last year’s levels, he said.In Breckenridge, as the antique autos take off, ‘Vettes on The Rockies will roll into the county at the end of July. While their “show and shine” will take place on Main Street in Frisco, the 600 Corvette owners booked their rooms in Breckenridge. In August, 550 BMW motorcycles will liven up downtown Breckenridge during a conference dubbed “Curve Cowboy Reunion.” The town will also host 800 educators at the beginning of August, plus a higher number of wedding parties and family reunions during the summer. Overall, Breckenridge’s summer reservations are 8 percent ahead of last year and 7 percent ahead of 2002.”We’ve placed just 60 percent of our marketing efforts so we’re not just sitting and waiting for people to contact us,” Mihm said. Increased use of the Internet for travel planning is driving the new trend toward last-minute bookings, creating a challenge for marketing.”We need to be in front of them when they’re planning and also when they decide to book,” Mihm said. The resort chamber manages the Breckenridge Central Reservation system, which can make reservations for up to 95 percent of the town’s 25,000 beds. Susan Hodapp, director of marketing hospitality for Keystone Resort, declined to discuss summer reservations, citing Vail Resorts policies. Keystone traditionally hosts dozens of conference groups every summer in its 100,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes the Keystone Conference Center. Kim Marquis can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249 or kmarquis@summitdaily.com.


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