Holidays looking merry for hotels
Hotels know in advance what Santa’s bringing them. They make the list themselves every fall in the reservation book. According to Vail and Beaver Creek general managers, the holiday season looks promising, thanks to early snowfall and last-minute bookings.Antlers GM Rob LeVine reports the strongest December he’s had in six years, and he expects to be 100 percent occupied two weeks from now. Chuck Anderson at the Beaver Creek Lodge is in a similar position, with only one room left for the 14-day period including Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The same goes for the Lodge at Vail, the Lodge Tower, the Ritz and the Manor Vail.”Over this particular time period, that’s normal,” says Wolfgang Triebnig, GM at the Lodge at Vail. “The people who have come here for years continue to come, and there’s plenty of new ones. The early snow has helped tremendously.”All the powder has caused Vail Resorts to begin opening up Vail Mountain at 8:30 a.m. starting this Saturday, Dec. 21, a start time which will continue until the end of the ski season. Unfortunately, due to the crowds expected over the holidays, pass restrictions will not be lifted this year, according to Vail Mountain chief operating officer Bill Jensen.”The crowds will be large enough that (lifting restrictions) would cause us to violate our single-day limits, as dictated by the U.S. Forest Service,” Jensen says. But the holiday business, Jensen continues, will be good for everyone.The trend, according to the lodging community, is that business has been picking up steadily since last winter, but it’s not yet up to the record levels of five or six years ago.”This year is better than last year, but last year wasn’t a banner year,” says Manor Vail marketing director Richard Tenbraak, whose reservations look positive, except for one unexpected cancellation. Political strife in Venezuela caused one of Manor Vail’s biggest groups to cancel for the holiday season, but Tenbraak is confident he’ll be able to fill the empty space. One reason is because travel trends have changed.”The biggest change this year has been the window that people are booking in,” says Anderson. Instead of confirming months in advance, travelers are calling within 30 days of their expected stay, and many times the week of their vacation period. The length of stay, at least in Anderson’s perspective, is shorter as well.Tenbraak agrees that travelers are more frequently making last minute plans, which is why he’s not concerned that call volume has generally been down this year.”The bookings seem to be coming in, just later,” he says. Anderson believes the change is due to the mindset of the post-9/11 traveler, who in the climate of increased fear about traveling, believes that the availability will always be there.”And sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t,” cautions Anderson. Stan Cope, GM at the Lodge Tower, downplays the 9/11 influence and believes that travel patterns are always changing.”Every year you think you know what the patterns are, and then they change,” he says. Triebnig agrees.”People who travel, travel when they choose to,” he says.One property that may not have to worry about the trends, at least this year, is the brand-new Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, which is nearing capacity for the entire year, according to public relations director Kristin Yantis. For the holiday season, they do have a few rooms left, but Yantis insists those who have preferences, such as having a suite or a mountain view, will not have much to choose from.In a conference call with financial analysts last week to disclose Vail Resorts’ first quarter results, VR CEO Adam Aron said bookings for the company’s lodging properties, including the Lodge at Vail, are up 15 percent over last season for the Christmas period.”We think it’s going to be a very strong Christmas holiday,” says Jensen, who is especially happy that Christmas is falling on a Wednesday this year. He says it’s the best possible day for the holiday to fall because it brings in travelers from both sides of the week.”We’ll see increased business because of the Wednesday date,” says Jensen.If the snow keeps falling, the year could be exceptionally strong, the lodging community says, since bookings for the remainder of the year are already looking positive.”You have to take the elements into consideration,” says Triebnig.