Vail Valley lodges expect busy, not great, holiday weekend
While hotels work to maintain confidence, some are canceling reservations
Thanksgiving has never been an all-hands-on-deck holiday for the Vail Valley. In fact, a good Thanksgiving was once the occasional product of great early snow. The holiday now is seen as a solid kickoff for the season to come.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in a fall flare-up, local lodges are still expecting good, if not great, business over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. That business will come with some last-minute cancellations.
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Sales and Marketing Director Heidi Miersmann said that hotel usually sells out over Thanksgiving weekend. This year, the hotel had just 13 rooms available two weeks ago, Miersmann said. But with the rise in COVID-19 cases, and the Hyatt chain’s relaxation of cancellation policies, a number of guests decided to cancel or delay their travel plans. As of Nov. 23, Miersmann said the hotel has just more than 50 rooms available for the weekend.
At the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, sales and marketing director Scott Gubrud said weekend rooms are available. But, he added, current occupancy is similar to 2019. The difference, he said, is lead time in booking.
“Lead time is half or less of what it used to be,” Gubrud said.
Hotels everywhere have altered their business practices, from cleaning to food service to cancellation policies.
Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the region’s chamber of commerce, said all those practices are intended to bolster guest confidence.
Hotels aren’t currently operating under occupancy restrictions from public health officials. Romer said that’s because the virus has become a limiting factor on travel.
“We have natural, built-in occupancy restrictions based on demand,” Romer said. If the virus is spiking, in either a destination or a local market, it would be a surprise if lodges didn’t see cancellations, Romer said.
“The market is going to dictate that to us,” he said.
While there may be fewer guests this holiday, local hotels with food service are working to make guests feel safe.
More in-room dining
At the Park Hyatt, Miersmann said guests can pay $10 to have meals from the hotel’s restaurants delivered straight to their rooms.
In addition, the hotel has also rolled out grab and go menus for those heading up to ski.
At the Four Seasons, Gubrud said the hotel is offering a fixed-price Thanksgiving meal at Flame restaurant. The hotel’s Remedy bar is also doing a limited version of that menu, and smaller parties are being accommodated in some of the hotel’s meeting spaces.
While those spaces are operating under limited occupancy, Gubrud said in-room dining is becoming more popular.
At the Grand Hyatt Vail, hotel spokeswoman Ivie Parker said in-room dining is available, with some restaurant dining available. Guests also have options from the Gore Creek Food Truck and the Market Café, which features a grab-and-go menu.
Romer said business owners and managers have done a good job adapting to public health orders and restrictions.
The guest side of that equation is a bit harder to figure out, Romer added.
Vail Resorts and the valley’s main reservation websites prominently feature COVID-19 restrictions and rules, Romer said. But, he added, it’s less clear whether guests are getting equivalent messages from rent-by-owner or more globally-focused sites.
That means it’s important for front-line employees to understand and communicate restrictions and rules. And it’s important to keep up, he added.
“It can change really fast,” Romer said. “We need to be really diligent, individually and as organizations, to provide the best service we can t the people who are here.”
Here are the red-letter days on the ski season calendar:
• Dec: 25 — Jan. 1: The Christmas/New Year holidays
• Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Monday holiday
• Feb. 15: Presidents Day Monday holiday
• April 4: Easter Sunday