The Vail Valley Partnership has launched a second season of its “Welcome Home” program, which encourages second-home owners to spend more time here.
Original article published by Scott Miller with the Vail Daily on April 30th, 2021.
An idea that started with a flash of inspiration in a moment of insomnia is back for a second year.
In April 2020, Gypsum Town Manager had the inspiration for what became the Vail Valley Partnership-run “Welcome Home” program, which invited second-home owners to spend more time in their Eagle County homes.
The program, which was made available to local businesses and nonprofit groups, touted the valley’s medical facilities, along with cultural programs and, of course, a whole lot of outdoor recreation tailor-made for social distancing.
The program launched in May as a way to boost an economy that was then somewhere between free fall and hibernation, with no way of knowing what the coming months might bring.
But the valley’s real estate market caught fire in June, and the resorts enjoyed a remarkably busy summer.
Given the relative health of the local economy and relative success of the past summer and winter seasons, why re-launch the program?
Jason Cole, CEO of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate said this year’s program is a reminder that “this is a still a welcoming community. We rely on second-home owners and guests, so the welcome mat is still there.”
Stephen Barber, manager of the EagleVail Metropolitan District, said that community participated in the first Welcome Home program because of the number of second-home owners there.
The community sent out Welcome Home messages through its communication channels, telling property owners about the district’s health and safety efforts.
More facility use
“Last year saw a great uptick in the use of our facilities,” Barber said. “People seemed to be recreating more as a family unit.”
And, in a summer when a number of families chose to stay close to home, Barber said there were people using the EagleVail Pavilion and its adjacent beach area “almost as if they were on a beach on the west or east coast.
Barber said the district intends to again offer that welcome to residents and property owners.
“We expect an uptick in second-home owners,” Barber said. Reaching out with a packet of information makes those owners feel welcome, and provides assurance that the district and its facilities are following public health orders and safety protocols.
Cole said Slifer Smith & Frampton also sent plenty of information about the to current and prospective property owners. The response was encouraging, Cole said.
A lot of clients want “a sense of community,” Cole said. That includes ways to get involved in the community, including participating with, or donating to, the valley’s myriad nonprofit groups.
The second round of Welcome Home continues with largely the same thing, with a few exceptions.
Vail Valley Partnership CEO and President Chris Romer said this year’s Welcome Home toolkit has dropped a lot of educational material, including Eagle County’s “Five Commitments of Containment” and other public health messages.
Targeting remote workers
The current package is aimed more at people who can work from just about any place with good internet service. The new packet touts the valley’s air service and other amenities.
The core of the intent is “(home) lights on, good; lights off, bad,” Romer said.
That means encouraging second-home owners to use their property as much as possible, Romer said.
“These folks are more likely to contribute to nonprofits, contribute to the community and be engaged in issues our community faces.”
Rietmann said there isn’t a lot of data about the program’s success to this point. But, he added, he’s “pretty confident” Welcome Home had an impact.
Some of that impact has been seen at Costco, where sales tax receipts increased in 2020.
While there aren’t many second homes in Gypsum, Rietmann said launching the program for a second year reinforces the basics of Welcome Home.
In the lower valley, it means continued business for Gypsum’s retailers, as well as the contractors based there and the employees who work in upper-valley communities.
“We know how interconnected our economy is with the rest of the valley,” Rietmann said.
Rolling out Welcome Home for a second year is a way to help encourage a sense of belonging among second-home owners, Rietmann said. It also helped reinforce some of the advantages Eagle County has over other resort communities, particularly in terms of health care and transportation.
Rietmann noted that other resort communities may not have had those advantages. And, he added, a number of resort areas in several western states discouraged second-home owners from coming.
“This is the long game,” Rietmann said. “We want to build relationships, and make (property owners) feel part of this community.”
For more information, go to vailvalleypartnership.com/welcome-home/.