Vail area lodging reservations look solid going into the winter
One firm is up more than 100% over this time in 2020
Wendy Mallas this week is at a travel conference in Florida. She’s seeing a lot of excitement about the coming winter in the Vail area.
“The (Nov. 12) opening of Vail has generated a lot of interest,” said Mallas, the sales and marketing director for the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon.
That excitement has been generating a lot of advance reservations. But excitement for the coming season is being seen all over mountain resorts in the western U.S.
A recent report from Destimetrics by Inntopia, a lodging analysis firm, shows reservations for the coming season up dramatically from the 2020-21 season. Reservations are also up significantly from the 2019-20 season.
Average daily rate is also on the rise — nearly 20% across the region.
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Four Seasons Vail General Manager Meredith MacFarlane said that property is on track for the best year in its history. Bookings for the Christmas holiday season are also on a record-setting pace, and rates have risen.
“Even the shoulder seasons have gotten smaller,” MacFarlane said, noting that the hotel was “basically sold out” the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16.
‘Chomping at the bit’
Vail Realty has long been in the local property management and short-term rental business. Owner Bart Cuomo said that company right now is seeing an increase of more than 100% in reservations compared to the same period in 2020, and more than 50% higher than any year in the past 10.
“People who missed last ski season are chomping at the bit to get back,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo noted that a number of his long-term guests didn’t come to the mountains last season. Those people are booking units throughout the coming season, he added.
All the people booking units may not be able to come, Cuomo said, primarily due to lack of rentable rooms.
While Destimetrics’ numbers from the same period in 2020 showed large declines from 2019, Cuomo noted that 2020 actually turned out pretty well. That came, at least in part, from people who wanted to book condos with kitchens instead of traditional hotel rooms. People who didn’t want to eat at restaurants could instead cook in their vacation units.
Whether that continues remains to be seen. But demand is certainly there.
“What (the COVID-19 pandemic) demonstrated is that travel is an essential part of existence,” she said. MacFarlane added that the ability to work remotely has also added to demand.
“If you don’t have kids in school, you can come up for a week and work, then go hiking or skiing,” she said.
Ready to roll
MacFarlane said the increased demand for lodging is being seen across the Four Seasons group.
“People are getting their travel back in,” she said, adding that the Four Seasons is looking at a “phenomenal” first couple of months of the coming ski season.
In addition to Vail’s early opening, Mallas said the return this year of the Birds of Prey ski races in early December is also driving demand. At the Westin Riverfront, Mallas said room nights and average daily rate for the fourth quarter of this year are outpacing the same period in both 2020 and 2019.
At this point, the Christmas holiday weeks are nearly booked full at the Westin Riverfront, Mallas said.
In addition, the Westin Riverfront is also starting to see the return of group business. Mallas said that hotel is seeing a lot of bookings for weddings. Corporate groups are smaller, but more numerous, she added.
While group business is still recovering from the pandemic shutdowns, MacFarlane noted that the Four Seasons is seeing a lot of group business made up by increases in “transient,” or individual, guests.
“We’ve had a couple of cancellations, then picked up transient business.”
People are looking for a place that’s safe, and that has a lot of amenities, MacFarlane said.
Now all we need is snow.
75.5%: Increase over 2020-21 in lodging reservations for November through April at mountain resorts.
120.4%: Projected revenue gains over 2020-21 for the same period.
15.7%: Occupancy reservation increase over the same period in 2019-20.
19.3%: Average daily rate increase for 2021-22 over 2019-20.