VAIL — In lodging terms, 2007 was the high-water year for western ski resorts. The 2013-14 season may finally erase that mark after several years of global economic doldrums.
That good news was presented Tuesday to the Vail Town Council and the town’s economic advisory council by consultant Ralf Garrison, head man at DestiMetrics. Garrison’s company has for years been tracking lodging reservations at mountain resorts. That information, he said, gives resort areas information they can use to plan for future crowds.
Beyond reservations, DestiMetrics also tracks the “average daily rate” being charged for rooms, as well as the “revenue per available room.” Those three factors all peaked in 2007.
Declining consumer confidence
Since then, the lodging business has faced declining consumer confidence, the nation’s lingering high unemployment rate and other factors.
Garrison said while consumer confidence continues at a historically mediocre pace, it has been trending up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is in record territory this year, and Garrison said the nation’s unemployment rate is finally dropping for “the right reasons — people are coming back into the workforce.”
With solid early snow in the Rockies, the lodging business across the mountain resorts is running ahead of the same period in 2012.
DestiMetrics analyst Tom Foley said the industry as a whole is 6 percent ahead of last year’s reservation pace, while Vail is up 3 percent. On the other hand, Vail’s daily rates and revenue per room is pacing ahead of the industry as a whole.
There are a couple of bumps in what looks like a smooth landscape, though. Reservations for January of 2014 are running behind the same month in 2013 — perhaps, Garrison said, because of the way the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fell. More of that two-week period was on the books in January of this year than it will be in the next few weeks.
April reservations are also down significantly. But, Garrison said, there’s still time for those reservations to come in, especially since Easter falls on April 20, a very late date for a holiday that moves around in March and April.
While reservation data can provide a lot of forward-looking information, that information remains somewhat limited.
Mayor Andy Daly asked Garrison if there is any way to correlate reservation data with sales tax collections. That’s been a hard piece of information to mine from reservations, Garrison said.
“It just varies too much,” Garrison said.
One thing that has remained constant is skier numbers, Garrison said. That number has been relatively constant at 57 million for the past several years. That means mountain resort economies will need to look to events — particularly in the summer — to expand their economic bases.