Last-minute bookings boost Vail hotel occupancy |

Last-minute bookings boost Vail hotel occupancy

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

In the traditional good news/bad news equation, people usually want the bad news first.

Here’s the bad news: Long-range lodging reservations for the Vail Valley have been down significantly from last season’s record-breaking levels since November, and they’re still down. For March, those long-term bookings are down 27 percent.

More bad news: The average daily rate lodges are getting for rooms is down this season as well.

Now for the good news: The number of people booking rooms at the last minute ” defined here as people making reservations 60 or less before they ” has gone way, way up. Figures from the Vail Valley Partnership ” which has a big part of the valley’s reservations business ” show the number of last minute bookings is was up 80 percent for January over last year.

Reservations made in January for January were also way up, an indication, perhaps, of a couple of things ” travelers looking for the best deals, as well as general uncertainty about the economy.

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Whatever the reason, booking soon before traveling has become a full-fledged trend.

“The model has changed,” said Chris Romer, sales and marketing director for the Vail Valley Partnership. “The historic information just isn’t as good any more.”

But the Partnership and other resorts are still relying on data generated by the Mountain Travel Research Project, a Denver-based consulting company that tracks all kinds of lodging information across 14 mountain resorts.

Ralf Garrison, one of the founding partners of the research firm, said his company’s never been busier.

“There just seems to be an insatiable appetite for information to see what’s going on,” Garrison said.

But the information now seems to indicate a market that volatile and hard to read. That makes forecasting hard. But Garrison said, the information so far is at least giving an overview of which resorts are doing better than others.

In that battle, the Vail Valley’s doing pretty well.

“We’re definitely stealing business from other resorts,” Romer said.

The way Romer can tell that’s happening is through occupancy at other resorts.

“We look at our occupancy numbers compared to the other resorts,” Romer said. “And both Vail and Beaver Creek’s occupancy compared to the overall market is pretty strong.”

Another indicator is that Vail and Beaver Creek are both moving up in the ratings, although both started well in the top half of the group.

“We’re skyrocketing compared to other resorts, and our occupancy is an industry leader right now,” Romer said.

That’s why Romer isn’t as worried as other people in the lodging business about March reservations. The numbers remain bad ” about 27 percent off last year’s pace as of Feb. 1.

What gives Romer his relative optimism is what’s been happening so far this winter.

“When we looked at December for January, we were 27 percent off,” Romer said. “We ended January down about 13 percent, so we gained a huge amount in short-term bookings.”

Romer said the same things have happened in December and, so far, in February.

“It’s not good, but compared to 2005 or 2006, we’re about even with that,” he said.

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