Lodging industry enjoys happy returns
Favorable snowfall during December has helped to boost lodging occupancy and revenues in the Winter Park area, with Winter Park Lodging Company on track to be about 25 percent ahead of last year’s bookings.
The upward trend is being reported across the board for western resorts, according to a press release dated Jan. 15 from DestiMetrics, a research agency formerly called MTRiP that records and analyzes travel industry data from a number of property management companies and mountain destination communities from across the country.
“If all things remain equal, it looks like we are on our way to setting an all-time record in terms of revenues,” said Tom Foley, operations director for DestiMetrics. “It is early to be saying that and a lot can happen between now and then, but we are certainly on pace to get there.”
Foley commented that revenues are on track to beat out numbers that were reported before the economy crashed in 2008.
According to the press release, so far this winter season western resorts have posted a 6.5 percent increase in occupancy compared to last year, with average revenues reportedly up 13.3 percent.
“Colorado is over-performing the industry in both occupancy and revenue,” according to Foley.
“Now that nearly a quarter of the entire ski season’s business is already ‘in the bank,’ and another 50 percent is ‘on the books,’ the remainder of the season is looking increasingly positive and could result in one of the industry’s best years ever if both the weather and economy continue to cooperate,” Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, states in the press release.
“I’ve never seen numbers like this,” said Sarah Bradford, owner of Winter Park Lodging Company, who reported seeing a 23 percent increase in occupancy across all of the properties the lodging company manages over the Christmas holiday.
Bradford also reported 100 percent of the properties her company manages were booked for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, as well as for President’s Day weekend.
Bradford attributes the increase to “a combination of things, but the snow really gets people going,” she said.
So far this winter season, Winter Park Resort has seen 114 percent of their 10-year average snowfall, with 45 inches of snow in November and 96.9 percent of the average with 58.5 inches in December, according to the resort’s website.
Last year the resort received only 16.5 inches during November and 67 inches during December. The 2011-12 numbers for those two months fell even shorter with 27 inches reported in November and only 15 inches reported for December.
The increased snowfall this year has received a good amount of attention from the press, according to Bradford, which she believes has helped to spur people to dust off their skis following a couple of lackluster snow years.
Bradford says she hopes this year’s snow will help to revamp tourist interest in skiing. “It’s just exciting that this is going to get people to ski and reminds people that it is such a good time in the powder,” she said.
Many higher-end properties are being rented out for longer periods of time, Bradford said. “The fact that those are booming means that it’s not Denver that’s coming,” she said. “Colorado still comes, but we are getting a lot of out-of-town guests spending big money in the valley.”
One of the reasons more out-of-town guests are coming to ski in Colorado is because California resorts haven’t been getting very much snow, according to Bradford.
“Those resorts are really struggling,” she said. “And it’s driving a lot of people from the West Coast over to us.”
The increase in occupancy and revenues is also attributable to a strengthening economy, according to Foley.
Key economic variables have the potential to shape leisure travel behavior such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Consumer Confidence Index, which have increased in the past year.
“There are always two wild cards in play,” Foley said. “The weather and the economy. This year both of those pistons are firing.”
The rise in occupancy numbers has led lodging companies, such as Winter Park Lodging Company, to increase rates.
In past years the unfavorable snow conditions and slow-moving economy caused Winter Park Lodging Company to reduce rates, according to Bradford.
This year’s improving economic conditions and snow totals “jump started rates to what they should be in this day and age,” Bradford said.
Looking ahead, advanced bookings for January, Febuary, and March are “way up with March in the lead at 32 percent ahead of last year,” Bradford said.
“That said, we are also seeing many more last-minute bookings when the snowfall makes the news,” she said. “Not only are Front-Rangers coming up for last-minute trips, but guests from other states are deciding to add a ski trip to their vacation plans this year.”
Asked whether the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado has been a factor in increased bookings, both Bradford and Foley said they didn’t have data to support that. The tourism demographic Bradford serves, she said, is that made up of families, therefore she believes it may be more of a hinderance than anything.
“Every time I see it on the news, I cringe,” she said.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334
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