Vail summer lodging reservations are softening
Even with a busy town, bookings lag both 2021, 2019
The summer of 2021 was a season of pent-up demand in the tourism industry. That wave seems to have broken.
While Vail is quite busy so far this summer, the booking pace has softened for mountain resorts. Inflation and financial market declines play a role, but Tom Foley believes the biggest factor is simply an easing of demand.
Here’s a look at some statistics for a 17-market mountain resort market. The data was collected by DestiMetrics, the Business Intelligence division of Inntopia
- 5.6%: Decline from 2021 in current occupancy for May through October.
- 20.6%: Decline in booking pace compared to 2019.
- 5.9%: Increase in average daily rate.
Foley is the senior vice president of Business Intelligence for Inntopia, a market research and analysis firm.
Foley said some of the current numbers indicate that pent-up demand has been satisfied in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to think of this like a dam bursting,” Foley said. “A wave comes up, then goes down.”
Foley noted that summer guests are different than winter guests in many mountain resorts, with summer guests being less affluent, and less willing to chase the latest big dump of snow.
“The seemingly exclusive allure of mountain travel doesn’t have the same appeal” for summer travelers, Foley said, adding that it seems many people who were first-time visitors in 2020 and 2021 have decided that mountain vacations aren’t their preferred recreation. Add in the reopening of attractions including theme parks and cities, and the mountain resort audience is going to shrink somewhat.
That doesn’t mean mountain resorts have lost their charm.
Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said there were still plenty of people in town for the recent GoPro Mountain Games, and big crowds are still expected for Vail America Days and other special events.
Wadey noted that while bookings for leisure travel are starting to soften, group business and weddings have returned in a big way this summer. That keeps lodges busy and businesses humming.
Wadey added that while reservations seem to be softening, she’s also noticing a return to previous summer patterns in which people book rooms closer to their travel dates.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said people seem hesitant to make travel decisions due to fuel prices, lodging rates and other factors. But, she added, it seems the town is just as busy this summer as last right now.
But Vail and other resorts are starting to shift their marketing efforts to have a greater focus on sustainability. In Vail, that project is called Destination Stewardship.
While some of the troubles with being too popular seem to have popped up recently, Vlaar said the perception of over-popularity has been building for some time. Still, she noted, the guest mix, both winter and summer, is evolving, with the gradual return of international visitors as well as people driving from the Front Range and farther-flung locations.
Vlaar said the idea of keeping Vail special while still welcoming guests includes a lot of local infrastructure including housing, child care and transit.
Those issues are essential to ensuring that Vail provides the best possible experience. That’s what Destination Stewardship is focused on, she said.
Beyond educating guests, current stewardship efforts also include “educating our own” about preservation, trail etiquette and other issues.
And, while reservations are starting to soften, Foley noted that the mountain resort region’s lodging revenue is still above previous records, even when gasoline is $5 per gallon or more in many places.