Vail area lodging running strong for the holiday season
Guests still coming in big numbers despite staff shortages, airline complications
Magda King runs The Antlers Vail. Thanks to COVID-19, King recently found herself pushing a housekeeping cart.
As the latest wave of the virus moves through the valley’s population, staffing has been hit hard during what’s traditionally an all-hands-on-deck time of year.
That hit has come across the valley’s economy from retail to restaurants to lodging.
Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the valley’s lodging sector has been Christmas-week busy this year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day usually finds the valley’s rooms almost entirely booked. The exception came in 2020, when the pandemic was still running in its original form and vaccines hadn’t yet been launched widely.
This year seems to be back to normal, and then some. Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said the weeks before Christmas and after New Year’s Day are showing occupancy at “historic” levels for the Vail Valley.
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The valley’s lodging inventory was more than 80% booked the week before Christmas, Romer said. That’s significantly higher than historic averages, he said.
Mark Herron is the local vice president of InvitedHome, a luxury home rental service. He’s also a member of the Vail Valley Partnership Board of Governors.
Herron said current numbers show reservations running at just more than 85% for Friday and Saturday. Romer added that the week starting about Monday is also running at about 80% occupancy.
Guests still coming
People are coming despite the spread of the virus, something Herron attributed to “pent-up” demand.
Meeting that demand has been tricky.
King said she had a number of people out of work due to COVID-19 isolation. But guests coming to the Vail Valley — and spending a lot to do so — still expect high-end service.
That’s why King found herself cleaning rooms recently.
People who may have tested positive while visiting don’t seem common. King said one family staying at the Antlers reported a family member with the virus, and asked the housekeeping staff to skip that condo for the remainder of the family’s 10-day stay.
Herron said he knows of a person with a positive test who decided to rent a car to drive back to Southern California instead of getting on a plane.
Those cases seem fairly rare, although King noted that there’s no way to know if a guest has tested positive if that person doesn’t notify the front desk.
At the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Sales and Marketing Director Wendy Mallas wrote in an email that property isn’t aware of anyone who’s had to isolate.
Herron said his business has had a few cancellations, but added those vacancies were quickly filled.
Challenges at the airport
The story’s a bit different for those trying to fly in and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport.
Eagle County Director of Aviation David Reid wrote in an email that the facility has had a “challenging” start to the season since the winter flight schedule began Dec. 16.
Reid wrote that airlines have had to cancel flights due to pandemic-caused staffing shortages. That problem has been compounded by the snow that’s blanketed the valley for the past several days, and people are facing delayed or canceled flights, or flights diverted to other area airports.
With all that, though, Reid wrote that the runways and terminal have remained open.
“We appreciate the patience of our traveling public as our airline partners accommodate on other/later flights into (the airport),” he wrote.
While travel has been complicated, Mallas said the snowstorm Monday, along with avalanche mitigation along Interstate 70, brought the first impacts to the Westin Riverfront.
Even with the busy season’s complications, Herron said he isn’t surprised to hear of people doing what needs to be done to keep the valley’s economic engine running.
“It’s a typical Vail response,” Herron said. “When we have a hardship, we go out of our way to make it right for our guests.”
95%: Average occupancy for the week between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1
80%: Average occupancy for Dec. 18-25.
80%: Occupancy on the books for Jan. 2-8.