Lodging bookings strong for holidays and into the winter | VailDaily.com

Lodging bookings strong for holidays and into the winter

Rates are up as demand recovers from pandemic

The Westin Riverfront gondola is expected to open in the next several days. The gondola can take skiers up to Beaver Creek.
Courtesy photo

It looks like the Christmas holidays for 2020 were a pandemic-induced one-off.

The holidays — known in the industry as the “festive season” — have been full-up in winter resorts for just about forever. That changed in 2020, with plenty of availability for the holidays and wary travelers for much of the rest of the season.

DestiMetrics, a division of Inntopia, has long tracked lodging occupancy and revenue at resorts across the Mountain West. The latest data from the firm shows that the summer’s strong visitation is continuing into the winter.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek General Manager Herb Rackliff said that property is fully booked for the heart of the holiday season, adding that “just about every resort” he knows of is in a similar position.

“So many people didn’t get the opportunity to travel last winter, and they’re making up for it,” Rackliff said.

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And, while average daily rate has seen year-over-year double-digit increases or nearly so, Rackliff quickly noted that the price of everything has gone up in the past year.

Still, those rates are higher, and people seem willing to pay.

‘Compression’ pricing

Mark Herron is the Vail Valley vice president of InvitedHome, a luxury home rental firm. Herron said the increase in rates is a result of “compression” in the lodging industry. That means supply and demand. There’s currently a lot of demand and a limited supply. That drives pricing, although Herron noted that most lodging firms use “dynamic” pricing models, meaning prices go up and down depending on demand.

Tom Foley, senior vice president of business process and analytics for Inntopia, said that across the 290 properties surveyed by DestiMetrics, the average daily rate for all of December was roughly $640 for all surveyed properties.

People are also booking rooms further in advance of their travel dates. That’s a return to patterns seen before the pandemic. Winter saw longer lead times between booking and travel, while summer lead times tended to be quite shorter.

Wendy Mallas, the director of sales and marketing at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, said that property is also seeing longer lead times this winter, although a big snowstorm will drive relatively last-minute bookings.

In addition, “a lot of new travelers are booking in closer (to travel dates),” Mallas said.

In addition to the desire for travel, Mallas said going back to full occupancy at restaurants and loosening other restrictions has also boosted traveler confidence.

With that increased activity, Foley said many lodging firms have returned to their pre-pandemic reservation cancellation policies. But, he added, people who have already made reservations tend to be less likely to cancel those bookings.

Full winter strength

Herron, chairperson of the Vail Valley Partnership board of governors, noted that occupancy is strong at all properties for the festive season more than a week in advance.

Beyond that, reservations are strong for the remainder of the winter.

Herron said there’s a lot of pent-up demand, particularly since much of the rest of the world is in some form of pandemic-related lockdown.

Lodging occupancy is good news for the rest of a resort economy, of course. Herron noted that business is up at retail and restaurant businesses across the resort areas, with business looking to grow every month.

That comes even with less-than-ideal snow across much of the West. Foley noted that as lift reservations have been dropped this season, and those lifts can run at full capacity, there’s also an “anticipatory sense” of snow to come.

That sense has filtered into some lodging properties.

“It looks terrific,” Rackliff said. “I can’t say enough positive things about the winter. … Hopefully we’ll get a lot more snow.”

By the numbers

Here’s a look at western resort lodging reservation numbers from DestiMetrics:

10.5%: Increase in November occupancy over the same period in 2020.

9.3%: Increase in November average daily rate over the same period in 2020.

73.8%: Increase in “on the books” occupancy for the 2021-22 ski season, compared to the 2020-21 season.

28.6%: Increase in average daily rate for those reservations from the same period in 2020-2021

Source: DestiMetrics

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