Room for improvement: Vail hotel occupancy up; overall number of people stagnant
March 19, 2017
Two Hotels Short
With two Vail hotels off the market due to remodels, 300-400 rooms were not available to visitors this winter.
Hotel Talisa — formerly the Vail Cascade, built in the early 1980s — was purchased by a Los Angeles-based real estate investment group over a year ago and shortly after announced a complete renovation, including a new name. After initially scheduled to open in December, its opening has been delayed.
The former Holiday Inn space in Vail is currently under remodel to become a DoubleTree by Hilton.
EAGLE COUNTY — According to hotel occupancy numbers in Vail and Beaver Creek, there continues to be opportunity to put more heads in beds during the calendar year as overnight visitation maintains its peaks and valleys.
With the prime Spring Break weeks waning, this week starts one of those downs in hotel occupancy at the resorts compared to last year's numbers.
"We're going to see a decrease in occupancy starting (this) week and it's simply due to where Easter fell last year versus this year," said Chris Romer, president of the Vail Valley Partnership. "And the warm weather on the Front Range doesn't help either."
Despite the warm weather, Easter being on April 16 (opposed to March 27) and a multitude of other factors, occupancy is slightly up at Vail hotels this winter season compared to last year, according to DestiMetrics data, but the overall number of people coming to town remains stagnant.
“People have a passion for Beaver Creek, so our guests tend to come and not be effected. At the end of the day, we need a place for the people that buy lift tickets to sleep.”Tom PuntelDirector, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
"We're short about 300 to 400 rooms between the DoubleTree and the Cascade," Romer said.
DestiMetrics is a Denver-based market research company that tracks lodging and other data from 19 mountain resort communities, including Vail and Beaver Creek. Its recent report didn't factor in the two Vail hotels that have been closed the majority of the season.
The Vail Cascade is in the midst of its remodel and will reopen as Hotel Talisa, and the former Holiday Inn is in the process of becoming a DoubleTree by Hilton.
Other factors influencing people coming to town for extended stays include the U.S. exchange rate compared to the peso and Canadian dollar, as well as uncertainty surrounding immigration.
CREATING YEAR-ROUND FOUNDATION
Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, said hotels in mountain resorts face particular challenges that hotels in a city such as Denver might not.
"The real challenge in the mountain resort industry is sustaining a solid, year-round economic foundation," he said.
For hotels to sustain, Garrison said, they must maintain a 65 percent occupancy rate, something Vail and Beaver Creek hotels still fluctuate beneath.
Aspen seems unphased by the international unrest as it pulls from a large European group of visitors, whereas Vail has a strong connection with visitors from Mexico.
"People have a passion for Beaver Creek, so our guests tend to come and not be effected," said Tom Puntel, of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
Puntel said the hotel located at the base of Beaver Creek had a strong February, thanks to a combination of destination guests and corporate events.
COMPETING WITH AIRBNB?
While rent-by-own units are becoming more and more popular in resort communities, it's not necessarily a bad thing for hotels, Garrison said.
"At the end of the day, we need a place for the people that buy lift tickets to sleep," he said.
Hotel developers are also noticing a trend in combining condos with hotels, making some units available for short-term rental and some for those who want to buy a unit — and maybe rent it out parts of the year.
"Cascade is an example of a property owned like a condo but run like a hotel," Garrison said. "It's a big piece of Vail inventory that moves back and forth."
Hotel Talisa — formerly the Cascade — was purchased over a year ago by Laurus Corp., a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company.
For hotels at Vail and Beaver Creek, the winter season isn't over yet.
"People are still booking short-term," Puntel said. "We're just hoping that the snow holds up for us."
As for the occupancy ebbs and flows, all is well for local resort hotels.
"Every year is doing a little better about filling in the (less busy times)," Garrison said.
But, the benefit of having rooms available this time of year is that there's a place for people still planning trips. However, it's almost time to swap the skis and snowboards for two wheels and golf clubs.
"When it's 80 degrees in Denver, people are thinking about biking and golfing, not necessarily skiing," Romer said.
Luckily here in the Vail Valley, locals and visitors alike can golf, bike and ski in the same day if they so please — at least until the snow melts.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.