The Antlers Has Done It Again

The Antlers has just done what nobody else has done … again.  For someone who likes to think outside the circle (see?) it is insanely gratifying to work for a company that’s consistently willing to try new things, break ground and be on the cutting edge. Do leaders get some arrows in the back? Sure, but I’d much rather have a few darts in the derrière than just slog along in the middle of the pack.

Among all the lodging properties in Vail (and later the Vail Valley), here are just a few of the things on which the Antlers has led the way:
Not charging for local phone calls (that’s right … 1983-ish)
Accepting non-Saturday to Saturday bookings during the height of the ski season (even harder to remember that)
Building employee housing (1982)
Converting all wood-burning fireplaces to gas (1991)
Putting VCR’s in every condo (1987)
Getting a fax machine (1992-ish … people asked, “What will you do with it?” and we said, “We really don’t know.”)
Computerizing our operations (1980 … with an Apple II+)
Adopting a stretch of highway (1985)
Offering free snowshoe rentals to all of our winter guests (2012)
Starting the redevelopment of Lionshead (2001 … at $18M, that was the biggest of all)

Now comes another biggie … more subtle than some of the others, but with potentially huge impact.  For many years the Antlers owners have enjoyed a 64/36 rental spilt. Owners get 64% of the rental income from their condominium. For full service properties (daily maid service, etc.) that’s the best in Vail, by a pretty wide margin. The rental split at most of our competition ranges from 60/40 to 50/50.

Last month the Antlers owners agreed to change that split, but here’s the fun part … Consistent with our efforts to encourage the owners to upgrade their condos to Platinum status, the split will be a sliding scale. Those units rated 90 and above (Platinum) will maintain the old 64/36 split, but for every rating point below 90, the split changes by 1%. In other words, a unit rated 88 (high gold) will receive 62% of the rental revenue rather than 64%. Our lowest rated units with an LQA score of 83 (thankfully not many of those) will have a 57/43 rental split … right up until the time they make some improvements (many of which are now being hastily scheduled).

This is a pretty radical departure from our historical approach of only using carrots to motivate condo improvements. This has a decidedly greater “stick” element to it. Does that part bother me? Yep, a little. But there’s such justification for it and ultimately it really is fair (in my mind, at least).

Best of all, it’s totally cutting edge. Nobody else is doing it … YET. I’m willing to bet that others will follow. I can’t wait to see.

Rob

Revenue Management?

Twenty years ago, most of us in the hospitality business had never heard of a Revenue Manager.  Back in those days people made their reservations either by calling us, or having their travel agent call us.  It was pretty simple.  Establishing our pricing was a fairly straightforward exercise, taking into account supply and demand, which was relatively homogenous.

Fast forward to 2014 and you have the internet and a plethora of new ways to book a hotel room.  Our puzzle includes guests who:

  • Call direct
  • Book on-line direct
  • Have their travel agent use one of those two channels
  • Use a wholesaler (a travel agent for travel agents) who does the same, or maybe books through the Global Distribution System (GDS) run by the airlines (Apollo, Sabre, Worldspan, etc.)
  • Use one of two Central Reservation Systems in Vail (with or without a travel agent involved)
  • Use one of the online travel agencies (OTA’s) such as Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com or more than a dozen others

There is also the question of how all those people who are booking on-line, whether direct or through a third-party, arrived at that particular website.  The possibilities are literally endless.  Attempting to track the demand from hundreds of such different channels is a full time job, to say the least.  Each of those sources of business lends itself to complex analysis of pricing, discounting, restrictions, behavior, etc.

Ryan Kelsey c

With this ever-growing complicated puzzle of “inbound traffic” the Antlers has taken the plunge of hiring a full time Revenue Manager.  Ryan Kelsey comes to us with a good analytical background, as well as local hospitality experience at the Charter in Beaver Creek and Destination Resorts in Vail.  We’re excited to welcome Ryan to the team, and love the fact that he can focus on this crazy puzzle of selling hotel rooms and providing the best possible return to our owners, while still maintaining great customer loyalty.

These days, when people ask me, “So how’s business?”  My pat answer is, “Well, it’s pretty good, but it sure ain’t easy!”  I realize that doesn’t make us special.  Business everywhere is tougher than it used to be.  Heck, it isn’t always easy being a consumer, either.  Think of the travelers who have to deal with the same plethora of choices about where and how to book their rooms. We’d love to hear from any of you who have a favorite way to book hotel reservations.  Naturally, we love it when you call us directly. That gives us the best chance of understanding all your preferences and satisfying all of your needs. But if you’ve found a preferable way to get a great Antlers suite with just a few online clicks, we’d love to know how and why.  And we promise to share the info with Ryan.

We Lost A Great One

Col. Don circa 1990We lost another one.  A great one.  One of the original Antlers owners.  He liked to tell the story about walking through the building (the original building) when it was a concrete shell.  Must’ve been 1971.  Colonel Don Wiethuechter (pronounced Wee-Tuke-Ter) was known to us as just Col. Don.  He was as supportive an owner as there ever was.  He came to every annual owners meeting as well as one or two other times a year, and always offered encouragement and appreciation.  Sure, on occasion he may have tied me up on the phone for a few minutes too long (hours, maybe?), but what I wouldn’t give right now to hear that voice say, “Hello Mr. Manager … How are you doing today?”

Col. Don and Bud Benedict were great chums and I remember when Bud retired, me being a little worried about that element of the transition.  My worries were unfounded … Col. Don had my back just as much as he ever had Bud’s … and as much as any other owner ever has.

I always claim that the Antlers Heart and Soul is what sets us apart from our competition.  It’s unquestionably what has kept me here (and happy) for 36 years.  Well, if ever there was a symbol of our heart and soul, it was Col. Don.  We’ve had some great owner/cheerleaders over the years, but Col. Don was Col. Don circa 1995there with the best of them.  I think we only took second place to his beloved Huskies at the University of Washington, and maybe his employer of 30+ years, the U.S. Army.

He would frequently travel with the Washington football team to away games and I think even received some sort of super-booster honor at mid-field one time.  I remember when Rick Neuheisel got the coaching job at UW, after getting canned from CU.  Things didn’t go so well for Rick at Udub either and we had a great time ribbing Col. Don for years afterward about our hand-me-down.  Despite his propensity to bleed purple (as they say), he always took it well.

I think we only have five or six of the original owners left now, although there are happily another six or eight that have been handed down in their families.  It’s such a bummer to see the number dwindle, but Col. Don will always be a permanent part of Antlers lore.

NEW: Antlers Offers On-site Ski Rental

The Antlers at Vail hotel and Ski Butlers have joined forces to add on-site ski rentals with ski valet to the long list of amenities the hotel already offers. This ski season guests will be able to not only rent ski equipment from Ski Butlers who will have an on-site location but also enjoy complimentary ski valet with Ski Butlers bringing their skis back and forth to the ski lifts for them.

Ski Butler

As part of Ski butlers’ ski rental service, guests don’t have to leave the comfort of their condominium to be fitted for their equipment. Ski Butlers will come to their condominium at the guest’s convenience to fit them and when the guest is finished skiing Ski Butlers will pick the equipment back up. No waiting in lines or carrying equipment around. Any questions or additional ski equipment needs, Ski Butlers will be the touch of the button away and on-site. Now, guests will be able to get on the hill more quickly and with minimal effort and be able to save all that energy for ripping down the slopes or skiing fresh powder.

“With the philosophy of ‘The answer is yes, now what’s the question?’ we are excited to have been able to fulfill another guest request at no additional cost to them,” says Rob LeVine, general manager of Antlers at Vail. “This partnership with Ski Butlers is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Ski Butlers fits customers with ski equipment in the comfort of their condo.

Ski Butlers fits customers with ski equipment in the comfort of their condo.

The Antlers at Vail hotel offers a relaxed Vail lodging experience in a fabulous mountain setting and was recently awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and GreenLeader status. With condominiums ranging from studio suites up to four-bedroom penthouses, every unit at the Antlers enjoys a fully-equipped kitchen, fireplace, private balcony, daily housekeeping service, and complimentary wi-fi and parking. The Antlers has an A+ location on the banks of Gore Creek, just steps from restaurants, galleries, shops, free Vail town shuttle and the Lionshead Gondola. For more information, call 1-800-843-8245 or visit www.antlersvail.com.

Founded in 2004 in Park City, Utah, Ski Butlers now serves 35 North American resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia, Canada. Ski Butlers award winning service makes renting ski and snowboard equipment convenient and hassle-free all for the same price or less than most resort ski shops. Ski Butlers is the only ski shop in Vail/Beaver Creek Colorado to win the Vail Valley Platinum Service Award for exceptional customer service 7 years in a row! Questions? Call 1-877-754-7754 or visit http://www.skibutlers.com/portal/antlers.aspx.

Antlers Lobby Serves as Brief Refuge for Baby Moose

There is never a dull moment at the Antlers at Vail hotel! A baby moose sought a brief refuge in our lobby yesterday morning. We are hoping it safely finds its way back to mamma.

The Colorado Parks & Wildlife website has resources for how to act when encountering wildlife and specific information on Moose in Colorado.

20140609_133140

A sweet little baby moose sought a brief refuge in the Antlers at Vail hotel lobby yesterday morning.

Annapurna, the Antlers Puma

Our friend and fellow Vail Symposium board member, Jay Huffard, recently sold his house in Minturn.  Perched outside was a bronze mountain lion originally sculpted by Edith Huffard, Jay’s mother! Rather than leave the sculpture there, Jay would like to sell it and donate the proceeds 50/50 to the Symposium and the Minturn Community Fund.  You gotta love that!

Annapurna 1

Since it wasn’t going to get much attention in a remote neighborhood of Minturn, the Antlers agreed to host this puma on our property, overlooking Gore Creek and the bike bath.  We named her Annapurna, after the mountain in Nepal.

Annapurna 2

While she may only be ours temporarily, we’re secretly hoping that someone will make a $6,000 donation and leave her here permanently … or at least indefinitely.  Either way, Anna is one of a limited edition of ten, and others have sold for more than $12,000.

We’re also wondering if she’ll keep away the deer and other wildlife that seem to frequent our back yard.

moose by pool 0514 e

As the Antlers Turn: April Showers Bring…

….unit improvement projects to the Antlers.

Tom and Pete in our Engineering Department have quietly been preparing to “bring the hammer down”.  I refer to the upgrades that are scheduled for several units at the Antlers this spring.

Since the Unit Quality Improvement plan was put in place last December (Nothing But Platinum Rated Condo’s” 12/27/13 blog- Rob) many of our owners have participated in some form or another.  Be it a new dinning table, a piece of art or a new king mattress, everyone seems to understand the concept of “keeping up with the neighborhood”.

Several owners have committed to major improvements this spring and that’s why Tom and Pete have been busy all winter putting more than a few ducks in a row.

To be more precise, there are 11 of these major projects beginning in April (the most ever taken on at one time) and the logistics and timing involved in an undertaking like this cannot be taken lightly.  Everything and everybody needs to be where they are suppose to be on any given day.  Demolition, materials, delivery, contractors and all the scheduling must be in place.  There is not much margin for error when the final inspection is on May 25th and a guest is checking in on June 1st.

New by June.

Over $500,000 will be invested into these 11 condominiums in the next few months.  The improvements include everything from new bathrooms and kitchens to carpet and heated ceramic tile floors.  Fireplaces along with windows, sliding glass doors, new interior doors and trim and stainless steel appliance upgrades are just a few things that will be new by June.

Why.

Ask any one of these owners why they are making the changes now and the overwhelming consensus is about unit quality.  Whether it’s done in steps or a complete demolition and remodel, the majority of Antlers owners agree that our guests have expectations that must be met if we are to remain competitive and even a level above the competition.  Again demonstrating the Antlers, its Owners and Staff remain committed to guest satisfaction.

Moving Forward

Our thanks to the owners who have committed to these improvements and I look forward to posting progress and photos of the the following condominiums as April showers begin:  Brooks Newbills 109, Marie Millman & sisters 211, Bob & Susie Abramsom 302, Stephen & Nancy Snyder 309, Frank & Flavia Bencina 403, Scott Brinkman 406, Edwina Daley 410, Steve & Jamie Hersee 411, Joe & Marie Forish 414, John & Nancy Scott 502 and David & Ulrike Martin 504.

Stay tuned.

Greg

 

 

 

Antlers Achieves TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Status

The Antlers team has always been environmentally conscious and we are quite proud of our longstanding leadership as a green hotel. We feel privileged to call this special valley our home, and our entire team appreciates the important role we play in reducing waste and pollution, and in leading conservation efforts. So, we are very excited to announce that we have been accepted as a Silver level GreenLeader into the new TripAdvisor® GreenLeaders™ program – one of only two Vail lodgings to achieve the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders status. The program helps travelers plan greener trips by identifying environmentally-friendly accommodations across the U.S. In addition to its TripAdvisor honor, the Antlers also was one of the first Vail hotels to earn Actively Green 2015 status as designated by Sustainable Travel International.TripAdvisor Greenleaders

While the recent green news isn’t a first for the Antlers, which was named Vail Valley Partnership Green Business of the Year several years ago, the new honors are meaningful for the hotel “because they acknowledge our continuing attention to environmentally-friendly efforts,” says General Manager Rob LeVine. “Our whole team enjoys brainstorming additional ways to save energy and reduce our impact on the planet, and we continue to implement ideas as they’re suggested. We also have been active in supporting the Vail community’s emphasis on going green – including acting as a sponsor of the Town of Vail’s portable solar VoltsWagon.”

From being a Vail Valley leader in converting wood-burning fireplaces to gas more than 20 years ago to installing an environmentally friendly laundry that’s one of the greenest in the area to smaller efforts like using refillable amenities containers in all of its suites, the Antlers has made green practices a regular part of doing business for decades. Additional eco-friendly initiatives include a highway cleanup day that guests can help with for a free overnight stay, free bus passes for employees, hotel-wide recycling, purchasing supplies with recyclable content, new smart landscape sprinkler timers with moisture sensors, investment in solar panels and wind power, participation in the Town of Vail’s Sole Power program and much more. For information about the Antlers at Vail’s many green practices, visit the Green Efforts page on the Antlers website.

TripAdvisor GreenLeaders

The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program was developed in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the United Nations Environment Programme. “TripAdvisor GreenLeaders are leading the hospitality industry in making efforts to improve their environmental footprint,” says Jenny Rushmore, director of responsible travel at TripAdvisor. Travelers can search for accommodations with GreenLeaders status on the TripAdvisor site and view a detailed list of environmentally-friendly practices. For more information on the program, visit www.tripadvisor.com/GreenLeaders.

Actively Green 2015

TripAdvisor GreenLeaders, Actively green, Vail hotelActively Green 2015 is a community-driven collaboration with a goal of certifying at least 100 businesses across the Vail Valley for sustainability best practices by the February 2014 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships. The program offers education, support and resources to Vail Valley business toward achieving certification as designated by globally recognized nonprofit Sustainable Travel International (STI).

 

Win a two-night getaway to Vail

Win a two-night getaway to the Antlers at Vail

Contest4

We’ve just announced our biggest social media contest yet! For your chance to win a two-night getaway to Vail “like” the Antlers at Vail’s Facebook page and then share your favorite ski, snowboard or mountain resort story or picture (or both) as a post on the Antlers at Vail’s Facebook wall. The post with the most likes at 9 am mst on March 14 will win a 2-night stay in a 1-bedroom condo at the Antlers at Vail valid between March 23-June 15, subject to availability.

Delight The Weird: Unique Hotel Amenities

I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog. He of the Purple Cow fame. One of his recent posts was titled “Delighting the Weird“. The essence of it is differentiation. Not just performing well, but also doing things that nobody else does.

The Antlers finds itself in a fun but challenging position as an independent property, competing against some awful big companies. Our neighbors include the Marriott, Four Seasons, and Ritz Carlton. Even our main condominium competition … Lionsquare, Montaneros, Manor Vail, Landmark and the Vail Spa are managed by Wyndham, Destination and East-West Resorts. Each of those companies have portfolios that make the Antlers look like a gnat.

So the name of our game has to be differentiation. If we try to compete against those big guys as just a well run commodity, we’re toast.

Free, unique hotel amenities

So what do we do to be unique? How about free, unique hotel amenities? Well, stuff like not collecting resort fees sets us apart from most of them. That’s nice, but it’s not THAT unique. Surely there are others who do the same. Aren’t there?

No, what’s REALLY different? How about a free GoPro camera loaner program? Now we’re talkin’. Free snowshoe rentals? Yeah, baby. Maybe a minivan for our condominium owners to use when they’re here. Again, one of our free & unique hotel amenities.

Under the heading of “Playing to your strength”, our guests have always told us how much they appreciate our well-equipped kitchens. Okay, time to amp it up … now we have a small appliance loaner program (free) with everything from waffle makers to toaster ovens to full on mixers. If your condo doesn’t have something you need, say the word … it’s on its way. While that doesn’t qualify as bizarre, I’m pretty sure it’s not something those other guys are doing. Happily, that effort also falls squarely in line with our motto of, “The answer is ‘yes’, now what’s the question?”

unique hotel amenities, Vail, hotel, lodging, delight the weird

We’ll continue to brainstorm at almost every one of our staff meetings about what we can do to set ourselves apart … to delight the weird. Of course, we’re always open to suggestions, too.

The best part is that although it’s challenging, dreaming up stuff like this and then implementing it immediately (corporate red tape? No thanks) helps make this a really fun place to work. We hope it makes it a really fun place to stay as well.

Rob