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Mountain News: Aspen foresees Chinese customers

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ASPEN, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. has started casting seeds in China, hoping to grow business from the giant country of 1.3 billion people.

The Aspen Daily News, reporting from a local chamber meeting, says that representatives of the Little Nell, the ski company's swank hotel, recently went to Shanghai to meet with travel agents.

Hotel manager John Speers explained that many wealthy Chinese send their children to U.S. schools. They can be more easily sold on a North American ski vacation while coming or going from their child's school.

Aspen, said Speers, generally has what Chinese visitors would be looking for: high-end shopping and a healthy serving of cultural events.

To better accommodate Chinese visitors, he urged local businesses to study how to conduct transactions using UnionPay, which is the only provider of credit and debit cards in mainland China.

Summer economy roars

ASPEN, Colo. – While Aspen city officials continue to be cautious about what the future may hold and real estate sales are a perplexing, muddled story, the tourism economy is bursting at the seams.

During June, the city recorded $44 million in activities subject to the sales tax, such as restaurant meals and lodging. That's an increase of nearly 16 per cent over the same month in 2011.

In Vail, the story is also of rapid growth in retail sales and lodging. June sales tax collections were the second highest ever.

In interviews with the Vail Daily, local officials responsible for marketing were happy to take credit for the gains. They said that they have become more sophisticated in the use of social media and other Internet-based marketing, but also that they have better connected specific users with specific activities.

"Instead of branding Vail as something for everybody, we're really honed in on messages about events and activities people say they're interested in," said Mia Vlaar, a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.

But again, as in winter, when good snow makes heroes and heroines out of marketing people, there was something else going on in June, too. "It's no minor detail that hot weather has driven people here," said Beth Slifer, chair of the marketing council.

People still feeding bears

BANFF, Alberta – It's mid-summer, and bears are turning up in the news in nearly all the mountain towns.

In Banff National Park, a tourist on a tour bus recently flung a piece of meat at a 23-year-old grizzly sow and her yearling cubs, hoping to lure the bruins closer.

"Absolutely shocking," said Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist with the park.

"This is the sort of behavior we saw 30 or 40 years ago, and it's certainly very concerning when we see that kind of disrespectful behavior in 2012, particularly to a bear that has been so successful in the landscape."

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