Vail, Eagle County could see strong summer season for lodging
Rising prices haven’t seemed to affect demand
There are any number of potential pitfalls for the summer tourism season, but the picture at this moment is pretty rosy.
The latest regional lodging report from DestiMetrics, a division of Inntopia, covers 17 mountain resort communities in Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. That report notes that the past winter was a big improvement over the winter of 2020-21, and a slight improvement over the previous record season of 2018-19.
While occupancy essentially mirrors the previous record season, the biggest change is in average daily rate, up nearly 38% from the previous season.
Demand locally remains strong, for both winter and the coming summer.
Mark Herron is the local vice president of InvitedHome, a luxury lodging rental firm. He’s also the lodging consultant for the Vail Local Marketing District.
Herron noted that many of the industry-wide trends apply to Eagle County. Vail’s most recent lodging report shows 2022 occupancy gains in every month through September.
But, Herron added, there are some potential headwinds brewing. The nation’s stock markets are on a weeks-long decline, and there’s a possibility of a recession on the horizon. Combine that with inflation running at its highest levels in 40 years and a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, and a slowdown could be coming. There could also be a resurgence in travel to Europe, he added.
Still, he said, demand remains strong, which means rates will probably stay elevated.
Herron noted that lodging, like the airline business, uses a dynamic pricing model tied to supply and demand. If occupancy doesn’t stay strong, rates will probably drop to keep people in rooms.
While the financial markets and the price of fuel — and just about everything else — might affect individual travel, Herron noted that group business — from corporate meetings to family reunions to weddings and sports tournaments — has been growing solidly into this year after a virtual shutdown in 2020.
Hotels that can accommodate group business are seeing strong activity from groups of all kinds, Herron said.
The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is one of the valley lodges set up for group business. General Manager Herb Rackliff said demand for group business is “very strong” right now, adding “It’s going to be an awesome summer.”
Rackliff agreed that there’s a greater comfort level with individual travel to Europe, adding there are more current travel options than just a couple of years ago.
But, he added, there’s still a lot of pent-up travel demand.
“There continues to be demand to do something,” Rackliff said. “People have been caged up.”
That demand translates to reservations, although people tend to book trips closer to their travel dates, even in the high-end residential units that Herron manages.
While the DestiMetrics report notes there’s been a bit of slowdown in rate increases, Rackliff noted that hasn’t had a noticeable effect on demand.
“Everything has gone up,” Rackliff said. “How could you not anticipate rate growth?”
Rackliff noted there’s “not a single thing” at the hotel that hasn’t increased in price. Those increases are passed to consumers.
When will those consumers — especially those traveling to mountain resorts — start to balk? Time will tell.