Visitation may be slowing in Colorado resort towns, but spending is soaring
Visitation to Colorado’s high country might be plateauing, but those visitors are unquestionably spending more.
Sales-tax collections in Colorado resort towns notched another record this summer, marking five consecutive years of steadily increasing summer spending in high-country destinations such as Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Telluride, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. Since climbing out of the recession in 2013, taxable summertime spending in those communities has soared anywhere from 26 percent to 59 percent.
As the season chugs to a start, with lifts now turning at Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain resorts, in addition to Loveland and Arapahoe Basin ski areas, communities are hoping for a repeat of the previous season, when visitation was strong and, like summer, spending was spectacular.
Last season, Colorado’s 26 ski areas saw a slight dip in skier visits below the record-setting season of 2015-16, when resorts tallied more than 13 million visits. But even with the negligible downturn in visits, resort towns once again harvested record sales-tax revenues.
Eclipsing the number of visitors hitting the mountain hamlets is the cash they are leaving in their wake. That’s a trend reflected in the Western resort lodging industry.
Inntopia, which tracks lodging activity in 20 mountain communities in eight Western states, shows summer occupancy for this year even with the previous year — thanks to a strong September erasing the first declines for July and August in seven years — while revenues are up more than 7 percent.
“The trend of revenue growth has been phenomenal, almost astronomical, particularly for the summer, since 2008,” said Tom Foley, vice president of business intelligence for Inntopia.
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With a key water deal denied, the Battle Mountain developer and the town of Minturn are planning to meet next week to discuss the future of the Bolts Lake property.