Thursday, April 02, 2015

Breckenridge touts new strategy to close gap between summer, shoulder seasons

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

This summer promises to be a bright one for Breckenridge.
Shortly before wrapping up their annual summer preview, staff members with the newly christened Breckenridge Tourism Office handed nearly 70 pairs of sunglasses to a collection of local restaurateurs, lodging managers and business owners at the recently remodeled Speakeasy Theater. The only instructions: put them on and pose for a massive group selfie, Ellen DeGeneres style.
“Why do we have sunglasses?” asked Lucy Kay, president for BTO. “Because the future is bright here in Breckenridge.”
A few attendees laughed, a few groaned, but all obliged as BTO public relations assistant Jessie Unruh snapped a few smartphone photos from the front of the room. Within minutes they were posted to Instagram, along with the tagline, “Summer is looking bright in #Breckenridge!” Summer had officially begun, at least for the local business community.
But summer isn’t the same beast it once was. If the Speakeasy and BTO’s new name are any indication, Breckenridge is on the cusp of a renaissance. Attached to the Speakeasy is another recent success story, the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center and South Branch Library, while down along Main Street, just about every storefront is now filled after several lean years when tenants battled a down economy.
And Breckenridge isn’t alone in the resort renaissance. Over the past five years, mountain towns across Colorado have seen increased interest during the “shoulder seasons” of spring and fall, two occasionally drab stretches that were previously overshadowed by the frenetic heights of winter and summer.
“People are looking for summer earlier and earlier than they ever have before,” BTO marketing director Scott Fortner said. “We can’t switch gears the way we have before, saying, ‘Let’s now think about summer,’ and ‘Let’s now think about winter.’ We have to be the year-round destination, and we need to have the mindset of a year-round destination.”
For BTO, which acts as a combination marketing and business chamber for all businesses in Breckenridge, events are key to closing the gap between summer and winter. But events don’t promote themselves, and the BTO team is looking at new ways to reach a fickle — and constantly changing — audience.
Fortner again points to the past four or five years, when new events and attractions began popping up across Breckenridge. His presentation came shortly after officials with the USA Pro Challenge announced a new three-stage women’s race, which comes in time for the event’s fifth anniversary. Held in late August, the race could signal the end of summer, but it’s followed by burgeoning attractions like Oktoberfest and the Breck Film Fest, both in mid-to-late September.
“There’s just a lot more happening than there has in the past, so that gives us an opportunity to tell those stories — what we call these interesting, unique stories — that resonate with visitors,” Fortner said. “It’s no longer the off-season for a ski town. It’s grown into its own.”
During his presentation, Fortner dug into BTO’s strategy for finding a Breckenridge audience. The organization puts heavy emphasis on digital and social media, and it shows: nearly 50 percent of visitors now access the retooled BTO website through mobile devices. His office then uses this visitor data to build fine-tuned profiles, or “psychographics,” that rely more on behaviors and habits than traditional demographic metrics like age and location.
To explain, Fortner gave the example of a relatively new BTO audience: European visitors. Breck has long been a destination for stateside markets like Houston and Chicago, but in the past year, the town has targeted residents in Germany and the U.K. These potential visitors have likely been to the U.S. before, Fortner says, but they have probably never visited Colorado or a resort town. If their social media profiles show they like mountain biking, craft beer and, say, community theater, BTO can craft a marketing message just for them.
“Again, this is part of the psychographic movement,” Fortner said. “You have people who want to immerse themselves in a culture, who want to look back on their time spent away from work and see they walked away with an experience.”
Niche is now the name of the game, and with everything from year-round art and music festivals to oddities like the town-wide Kingdom Days in mid-June, BTO wants to show the world that Breck has a little something for everyone.
“We feel that we have a lot of niches to deliver on,” Fortner said. “Again, we have so many more than ever before, and it’s just a matter of sifting through those to find the right match for the right time of year. The days of, ‘Come to Breck because it’s a nice place to be’ are gone. We’re much more granular in our approach now.”
The preview also included a presentation on every business owner’s favorite topic: road closures.
Beginning shortly after the ski season wraps up, final construction will begin on the medians and roundabout along Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Swan Mountain Road. The project includes landscaping work on the roundabout at Main Street and Park Avenue, along with finishing work on medians between the roundabout and Coyne Valley Road. All work is slated to wrap up by mid-June, with single-lane closures and minor delays. The remainder of the project will begin this fall in the stretch from Coyne Valley to Four-Mile Bridge.
A bit closer to downtown, the new Prospector Park on Main Street will be finalized, with playground equipment and landscaping. The park be ready for a grand opening by late June. During construction, portions of a new sidewalk connecting the Carter Museum to Main Street will be closed.
By the end of summer, the town will begin installing heated sidewalks on Washington, Adams and Jefferson avenues. The south sidewalks on all three streets will be closed during construction, along with minor street closures.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.