After years of growth, bookings are flat
Snow in Denver
Mountain residents of a certain age remember a Monday Night Football game on Oct. 15, 1984. That night, the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers played in a driving snowstorm in Denver. The Broncos won.
It’s ski-resort legend what happened the next day — reservation lines were jammed the rest of the week, thanks to callers who had seen the game.
This year’s game between the Broncos and New England Patriots also showed snow in Denver during a nationally-broadcast game, which the home team won. That broadcast had less-pronounced effects. While the Vail Valley Partnership’s reservation figures for the week are about equivalent for the same week in 2014, the Four Seasons in Vail reports “a nice bump” in calls and internet queries.
EAGLE COUNTY — Lodging’s big bounce-back from the depths of the national economic slump in 2009 and 2010 has slowed. But the overall picture remains positive.
Destimetrics, a Denver-based market research company, focuses on resort lodging. According to that firm’s latest figures, reservations for the first half of December are roughly equivalent with the same period in 2014.
The Vail Valley Partnership, the valley’s regional chamber of commerce, also has a reservations service that takes a good share of the valley’s bookings. Partnership CEO Chris Romer said that Beaver Creek lodging numbers are up fractionally, while Vail’s numbers are showing a slight dip in reservations. And, at the moment, the weeks around the Christmas holiday have yet to fill up.
Scott Gubrud, sales and marketing director at the Four Seasons hotel in Vail, said people in the lodging business like to have the Christmas bookings solidified at this point in the season. But, he added, reservations are coming in much closer to travel dates these days.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be fine,” Gubrud said. “Those later bookings aren’t going away.”
Romer agreed and shared an anecdote from a recent trip up Vail Mountain.
“I took some turns with people from New York who had booked just last week,” Romer said. “And I rode up (the mountain) with some people who had just booked two weeks ago.”
The Vail Valley’s weekends remain somewhere between “busy” and “nearly full.” But Destimetrics owner Ralf Garrison said those busy times mean there simply isn’t room to grow at the level mountain resorts have seen in the past four years or so.
“We’re running out of supply for beds in those periods.” Garrison said.
Romer said the slower growth is the result of success in the past few years, particularly as Vail and Beaver Creek have put more emphasis on events.
“As a community, we’ve done the easy stuff,” Romer said. “(Vail Resorts) has done a great job with events in December and April, and we’ve done a great job of adding events in September and early June.”
That means the resorts fill up on weekends. The challenge now, Romer said, is looking to build occupancy between Monday and Thursday, as well as slower weekends.
The midweek and off-peak market is international travelers, meetings, ski clubs and similar groups. The problem with finding heads for those particular beds is that the pool of available customers is smaller — particularly compared to traveling families — and there’s fierce competition for that audience.
While the days are probably over for dramatic year-over-year growth in the resort lodging market, there’s still good news to be found.
Gubrud said the Four Seasons’ bookings are ahead of the same period last year.
And, of course, early-season snow is always a good thing.
“There’s always a psychological impact of snow on the skiing population,” Garrison said. “We see that most immediately in the local and regional markets.”
Even with the current dip in reservation numbers, both Garrison and Romer said the season is still off to a good start.
What may happen, though, is that occupancy and nightly rates may see some adjustments over the coming weeks and months.
“As rate and occupancy have both grown, rate has grown a bit faster,” Romer. “I’m curious to see whether we’ll see an adjustment there.”
Still, Romer said, the resorts are “off to the right start. How much difference that will make (in reservations) from Christmas through March, I don’t know.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.