Vail Valley Christmas reservations are down compared to 2019 |

Vail Valley Christmas reservations are down compared to 2019

More people are starting to travel away from weekends, flattening occupancy peaks

Lodging reservations for the Christmas holiday are down from 2019, but industry analysts say there are opportunities for both lodging operators and guests.
Andrew Maguire

For as long as anyone can remember, you were just about out of luck if you were looking now for lodging reservations for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in the Vail area. Times have changed.

Due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, room reservations are down for the holiday period. That means there are rooms available, and there could be some deals out there.

The most recent data from DestiMetrics, which analyzes resort lodging, shows that reservations so far for November of this year to April of 2021 have declined significantly from the 2019-2020 season.

There are caveats, of course, due to big changes in the travel industry overall.

The biggest factor is the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus and the changes it has brought to most aspects of our lives has accelerated a trend toward booking trips closer to travel dates.

According to data from The Insights Collective, a group of industry experts who are analyzing trends and providing information to resorts, the average time between booking and travel has fallen by nearly two weeks in just the past few months.

Insights Collective member Tom Foley, senior vice president for Business Operations and Analytics for DestiMetrics, a division of Inntopia, said the pandemic has sped up several parts of the evolution of the travel industry.

For most of this year, “people are driven by what’s happening today,” Foley said, adding that travel decisions are being driven in large part by conditions in a traveler’s home community as well as conditions where that person wants to go.

In short, people travel when they think it’s safe to do so.

Other changes in travel are also starting to show up in when people travel and stay.

Peaks and valleys flattening

Foley said more people are starting to travel away from weekends. While Friday and Saturday arrivals are still the most popular, there’s been a subtle increase in people staying between Tuesday and Thursday.

“Occupancy peaks and valleys are flattening out,” Foley said, adding that the market is starting to take a direction that tourism officials have spent decades, and untold dollars, trying to nurture.

The challenge, he added, is maintaining the trend once the pandemic eases its grip.

Another challenge is how to think about travel, an industry Foley said has a long-running status quo. Both guests and operators are starting to think about different ways of travel. That creates opportunities on both sides of the equation, Foley said.

Chris Romer, CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the Vail Valley’s chamber of commerce, said he’s already seeing some of those changes.

“Some lodging properties are doing sales for the holidays. We’ve never seen that,” Romer said.

“It might be a good time to come,” Romer said of the holiday season. And, he added, skiing, snowboarding and other outdoor winter activities are among the safest ways to play.

“You’re outside, wearing gloves, masks and goggles,” Romer said. There are some pinch points (such as lift lines), but even then (resort operators) are asking for masks and distancing.”

Guest service is key

Romer acknowledged that reservations are down from last season. But, he added, the core group of skiers and riders want to get on a mountain. Those people, who have an emotional connection to the sport, are still coming. In that respect, Romer said the Vail Valley is as well positioned as any other resort.

Romer said the response from business has to be focused on taking care of those guests. And, he added, that seems to be the attitude of business owners and operators.

Those people, “to a person, are completely focused on the guest experience,” Romer said. “They’re doubling down on taking care of the people who are here.”

People have “a resolve,” Romer said, adding that the guest experience will make a difference both this season and in seasons to come.

“People who are coming now are our most loyal guests,” Romer said. Treating those people well will create customers for life, he added.

While reservations are down right now, Romer said there’s a chance the lodging numbers could rebound later in the season. The valley’s air service is virtually unchanged from last season, he added. The on-mountain experience also remains mostly unchanged.

“We just need to remain diligent (about virus containment), and take great care of the people who are here,” he said.

By the numbers

44.1%: Decline in bookings made in November for the season through April compared to 2019.

37 days: Current time between booking and arrival dates.

50 days: Historic average time between booking and arrival dates.

Source: DestiMetrics.

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