Reservations rebound from December lull
• Reservations in December of 2015 exceeded those taken in the same period in 2014.
• A U.S. vacation for a Canadian family is 25 percent more expensive than in 2014.
• As of Jan. 15, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 2,363 points from its 52-week high.
• As of Jan. 15, the price of a barrel of crude oil has fallen $29.63 since July 1.
Just 30 days ago, people who track the valley’s lodging business were concerned enough to wonder if hotels might not fill for Christmas season. The reservations picture is different, and better, today.
The latest report from Destimetrics, a Denver-based research and consulting firm, shows that across the mountain resort region, reservations taken in December of 2015 actually finished ahead of the pace set in 2014.
For the region, overall occupancy for the current season is up 2.5 percent over the 2014-15 season.
That regional news was true in the Vail Valley, too, with some variances. The Vail Valley Partnership, the area’s chamber of commerce, tracks and takes many of the valley’s reservations. Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the improved picture through December has many lodging managers feeling better now than they did a month ago.
While December was a good month for reservations, Romer said there are still some anomalies in the booking picture.
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“We’re seeing some different stay patterns, and the holiday period was a bit different,” Romer said. “Some (lodges) fell off after the first week in January and some didn’t.”
At the Antlers Lodge in Vail, general manager Rob LeVine said that property’s bookings are running about even with last year’s pace. On the other hand, the 2014-15 season was a record-setter in terms of both occupancy and sales tax revenue, so running about even with that pace is no bad thing.
Fewer International Guests
LeVine said the Antlers has been hit by one of this season’s trends — lower international visitation due to the strength of the U.S. dollar. LeVine said the Antlers’ international visitation is down between 20 and 25 percent this season, reflecting about 5 percent of the property’s total business.
But, like others, LeVine said reservations from domestic travelers has made up most, if not all, of the falloff in international travel.
Vail Resorts reported the same trend in its Jan. 14 release of current ski season metrics.
The trend is also showing up at The Sebastian Hotel in Vail Village.
Annie Lynch, corporate director of sales and marketing for Timbers Resorts, which manages the hotel, said the Sebastian is actually setting new records for occupancy this season. The Sebastian has long counted on international travel as a significant part of its guest base, and Lynch said that strength is largely continuing.
“Our Australian business is up — those guests had already bought at a more favorable exchange rate.”
At the Four Seasons Resort Vail, general manager Mark Herron said that hotel also set new records for December. Those reservations came late, Herron said, adding that the hotel saw a boost following the Nov. 29 game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. That game was a national prime-time broadcast, and was played in the snow.
Herron added that January seems a bit soft now, but added that February and March are looking strong.
The February numbers could be the result of not having the world ski championships in the valley, Herron said. March’s strength may be due to Easter falling in that month.
Toll of Dow’s Dip
Another potential wrinkle in the season’s lodging picture is the current bear market on the New York Stock Exchange, which is raising eyebrows in the lodging business.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had been declining through the latter part of 2015, and has suffered significant losses so far in the new year.
Speaking by phone on Jan. 15, Lynch noted that the Dow dropped nearly 400 points that day, adding that people outside of the financial markets seem to finally be noticing the slide.
“I think everybody was caught up in the holidays until now,” Lynch said. “That could start to take its toll.”
Destimetrics principal Ralf Garrison said the market decline — the Dow finished 2015 lower than it began the year — is one reason for some continuing softness in the reservations picture. On the other hand, Garrison said most advance reservations for this ski season are already on the books, so the impact of the current market decline may be muted.
But, Garrison added, “It’s the destination guest who’s most impacted by the economy. Right now, the (resort) market is shifting in favor of the local or regional guest.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.