Wednesday February 20, 2013

DOVER -- If you cut the price in half, they will come.

Just ask some innkeepers in the Deerfield Valley.

In April 2011, Philip Gilpin Jr., son of the owners of the West Dover Inn, began working with Living Social.

"We ran one (promotion) with the West Dover Inn and within 48 hours, we sold over 400 packages. We sold out every weekend from May to foliage season," said Gilpin. "It floored us."

Occupancy jumped from 10 or 15 percent to 85 or 90 percent during the summer 2011.

This happened before Gilpin started his own marketing company, Green Mountain Marketing and before he worked as the executive director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce.

After seeing the success of the services, Gilpin held a meeting at his parents’ inn. He invited all the nearby innkeepers. Two representatives from Living Social came from Washington, D.C.

"They gave a presentation to the innkeepers and everyone started doing that and Groupon," said Gilpin. "It went crazy from there."

Groupon is a website that has a deal each day. It features local restaurants and businesses all over major markets in the United States.

The average deal of these services cuts the price of the regular package by about 50 percent. It will be a negotiated rate with the inn, and is in the inn’s favor, said Gilpin.


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For a Tuesday or Wednesday night, in the middle of June, when the inns are usually empty, Gilpin said that "getting $85 for those rooms as opposed to zero dollars, is a great number."

He said that with all the participating inns in the Deerfield Valley, between 10,000 and 14,000 people have come as a result of this program.

"It’s been huge," said Gilpin.

Carina Thorsson, owner of the Gray Ghost Inn in West Dover, said her inn began partnering with Living Social last winter.

The Gray Ghost Inn offers a group package that includes busing, lift tickets and pizza when the group arrives.

"It’s an opportunity for someone to go somewhere at a lower rate," said Thorsson. "Everyone’s on one bus, and it’s this nice group environment."

She believes this service is successful because people are always looking for deals, especially with the economy being the way it is.

Thorsson told the Reformer that she only offers these deals on weekends when it won’t typically be busy. The inn doesn’t do any special rates on holiday weekends.

Gilpin Jr. said these deals have been great for businesses in the valley during what had been typically known as the "off months." The deals have had the biggest impact during the summer months, May through September.

"It’s exposed the valley to an entirely new generation of people who normally wouldn’t be here in the summer months," said Gilpin. "That’s been the biggest benefit. We’ve seen repeat customers coming back three or four times in a year and paying full retail rate."

Gilpin said he had been thinking about setting up bus trips to the area and when he left the chamber, he continued exploring the idea. That’s when he created the Living Social Adventures Group.

Those were bus trips that brought people into the valley, offering activities such as treasure hunts and hikes, which had been marketed as adventurous, but not as extreme as say, the Tough Mudder, which is a course that is over 10 miles long and tests "strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie," according to the official Tough Mudder website.

Gilpin thought that his event would be geared towards people who want a different kind of a challenge, which would be a bit more relaxed.

With Living Social, he had sold 700 to 800 packages, which included the bus trip and a stay at one of the local ski lodges.

"The infrastructure’s very simple," said Gilpin. "People use it on their iPhones. They’ll tell me they bought the deal while waiting on line in Starbucks in Manhattan somewhere. Living Social and Groupon are very simple to use and it’s the best deal out there."

Gilpin Jr. said the services have also been successful because people trust the Living Social and Groupon brands.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.