Mountain lodging looking up — so far | VailDaily.com

Mountain lodging looking up — so far

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily.com

DENVER — Positive "snow equity" from last winter, good early season snowfall this year and stronger financial and employment news are combining to drive occupancy and revenues at western mountain destinations to one of their strongest starts in memory, according to the most recent data released by the Denver-based DestiMetrics. As of Nov. 30, on-the-books occupancy for December is up 6.9 percent compared to last December, and revenue is up 13.4 percent for the month. These positive figures continue the increases in actual occupancy posted for the month of November, which was up 11.6 percent with revenues up 12.3 percent.

The data is derived from the reservation activity reports collected by DestiMetrics with an analysis and aggregated summary delivered to its subscribers in the Mountain Market Briefing. The monthly updates help resorts and tourism-dependent businesses anticipate and prepare for the travel behavior of destination mountain visitors. As of Nov. 30, occupancy for November through April is up 6.4 percent, and overall revenue is tracking 12.3 percent ahead of the same time last year, with increases in every month and the biggest increase appearing in March.

"With the winter season in full swing and advance reservation indicators continuing their upward trajectory, mountain resort communities and the entire snowsport industry appear to have all the makings for a merry Christmas," said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics. "Just as importantly, as we look down the snowy trail, trends for the remainder of the season are pointing to a happy New Year as well."

Broader indications

Along with the positive reservation news, the monthly briefing also tracks and provides analysis on broader economic indicators with the potential to impact destination travel business in the coming months. There's even more good news for the travel industry — it was another record setting month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average with a 3.5 percent increase in November and an encouraging drop in the unemployment rate down three basis points to 7 percent. The third consecutive month of decreases in the Travel Price Index — down 1.1 percent — was attributed to national declines in both lodging rates and fuel prices. On the negative side of the equation, the Consumer Confidence Index dropped another 2.8 percent in November, marking the third consecutive monthly decline and reflecting ongoing consumer concerns about the economy.

"By and large, Mother Nature and economic trends are working in our favor to deliver a very good holiday and ski season for our members," said Tom Foley, operations director for DestiMetrics. "Travel inflation, meaning the difference between travel prices this year to last year, is down 1.5 percent, making travel a more attractive option to consumers, which is obviously very good for the travel industry. And although the (confidence index) is of concern, our experience and data reveal that destination travelers and skiers/snowboarders in particular tend to over-perform the greater consumer market."

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The briefing also noted that while lodging properties are enjoying an aggregated 12.3 percent boost in revenues for the entire winter season, that increase was driven primarily by increases in occupancy compared to last year.

"This represents the best early season performance in several years among most of our destination mountain communities, and with the Christmas season just around the corner, resort operators can justify some holiday cheer," Garrison said.