September a bright spot for Aspen lodging |

September a bright spot for Aspen lodging

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – Aspen lodging occupancy lagged anywhere from 9 to 17 percent below 2008 numbers all summer, but September went down as a bright spot in the tourism trade.

Last month was only off last year’s pace by 3 percent, no doubt due in large part to Labor Day’s spot on the calendar. The holiday weekend, close to a sellout thanks to last-minute bookings, fell entirely in September, as did the days leading up to it.

That didn’t help August numbers – down 17 percent from the prior year. July occupancy was off 2008’s pace by 12 percent and June was down 9 percent, according to monthly occupancy reports released by the resort.

The reports are based on actual bookings at 16 lodge, hotel and condo properties in Aspen, representing 74 percent of the available units.

In Snowmass Village, where the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival concerts took place on the holiday weekend, September occupancy was down 8 percent compared to the same month a year ago. The report is based on bookings at 12 properties that represent 82 percent of the units in Snowmass.

Though Aspen’s numbers were down all summer, the resort saw the highest occupancy among 12 mountain resorts in June and July, and was No. 2 in August, according to Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. She declined to reveal what other resorts were included in the comparison at an Aspen Lodging Association meeting last week.

That said, the decline in Aspen occupancies has been more precipitous than most, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a local reservations agency that handles less than 10 percent of the resort’s overall bookings.

“We’re down a little more than most, but we’re still doing better than most,” he said.

Aspen’s Summer Pass promotion – a pass provided to visitors that was good for deals at participating restaurants and retail shops – combined with deals from participating lodges did produce bookings, the ACRA reported to the Lodging Association. The deals included perks such as 50 percent off for Wednesday night stays or a fourth night free for bookings of three nights.

Calls into Stay Aspen Snowmass prompted by the promotion numbered 353 and 125 packages were booked for a total revenue of $110,173, Theisen said. About 17,000 of the passes were distributed to visitors.

The ACRA is quick to point out that it can’t easily track visitors lured by a promotion or the chamber’s vacation planner publication, distributed to prospective visitors, if a stay is ultimately booked directly through a lodging establishment.

As for bookings for the coming winter season, lodging representatives say they’re not sure what to expect.

Winter bookings made by Stay Aspen Snowmass surpassed last year’s totals for two straight weeks this fall, compared to last year, when the bottom was starting to fall out of the national economy, Tomcich said.

“Last year at this point in time, we were losing momentum like we were falling out of the sky,” he told the Lodging Association.

October occupancy as of Sept. 30, based on actual bookings, stood at 22 percent, compared to 23 percent in October 2008, based on bookings by the end of September. Actual occupancy for October 2008 wound up at 30 percent, according to the latest occupancy report. November occupancy stood at 10 percent, based on bookings by the end of September 2009, compared to 11 percent in 2008. Actual occupancy in November 2008 was 29 percent.

Both months, in the heart of Aspen’s offseason, aren’t expected to produce big numbers. Ski season is scheduled to start on Thanksgiving Day – Nov. 26 – at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass.

The Sept. 30, 2008 occupancy report showed occupancy for October, based on already-made reservations, at 22 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2007. Actual occupancy for the month wound up at 36 percent. November numbers in the report a year ago were nearly identical to this year’s – 11 percent occupancy on the books by the end of September, compared to 12 percent in 2007. Actual occupancy in November 2008 wound up at 27 percent.

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