Vail Valley lodges feeling the sting from virus, financial market declines
The good news is that the ski industry is more resilient than other travel sectors
The COVID-19 virus and its effects on the nation’s financial markets is being felt across the U.S. travel industry, including the Vail Valley.
That hit started in earnest on Feb. 24, with steep drops in U.S. and global financial markets.
According to the latest data from DestiMetrics by Inntopia, a Denver-based firm that tracks lodging data across mountain resorts, February occupancy was up .9% from the prior year.
But this month has seen the biggest hits to the markets. That’s had an impact on travel.
Rich ten Braak is the general manager of the Comfort Inn in Avon. That property hadn’t seen any cancellations as of the morning of March 11. Just 24 hours later, ten Braak reported a significant number of cancellations.
“We’re still fairly busy … Our market is primarily from the Front Range, but destination (guests) are the ones canceling,” ten Braak said.
The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is also experiencing cancellations.
“We’re seeing our fair share” of cancellations, general manager Herb Rackliff said, adding “we still have people calling to book … the skiing’s been sensational.”
At the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, Jonathan Reap, the director of public relations, said that property has also seen its share of cancellations.
“It’s changing day in and day out,” Reap said. “A lot of people are postponing (stays) until later.”
Reap said the Four Seasons has been “very proactive” in reaching out to employees, guests and residents about the status of the valley’s COVID-19 outbreak.
“At times like this it’s important,” Reap said.
Vail Resort Rentals rents condos across the valley. There, owner Dale Bugby said his business has been hit hard.
“We’ve had far more cancellations than bookings,” Bugby said. Bugby guessed that he might lose half of his reservations for the rest of March, and “April is going to be ugly.”
And, Bugby said, some condo owners are canceling their own reservations.
When will it get better?
“I don’t have a sense for when it’ll get better,” he said. “There’s an overall fear of travel right now, although we’re not quite there with the cruise line industry.”
Bugby said his company is struggling what to do for the next six months. It might be a better financial decision to just shut down at least one property than to keep it open, he said.
Bugby isn’t alone in being uncertain about the coming weeks and months.
Tom Foley, senior vice president of Business Operations and Analytics for Inntopia, said uncertainty abounds in the industry, adding that it’s too soon to tell how the current situation will unfold.
It’s going to take time to understand it,” Foley said.
However the virus and the response to it unfolds, Foley said it’s “not a short-term event as we’re anticipating it.”
But, he added, President Donald Trump’s March 13 declaration of a national emergency had an immediate, positive effect on the financial markets.
“This is really a place where investors are so sensitive,” Foley said. “Words matter. Getting them right matters, and actions matter.”
Impacts from the virus and the financial markets have been felt beyond the lodging business, of course.
At Venture Sports, owner Mike Brumbaugh said a number of customers have canceled rental reservations at those shops.
On the other hand, he said, one family already in the valley decided to extend their stay, thanks to good snow and relatively empty slopes.
Foley said the good news is that the ski industry tends to bounce back more quickly than other leisure businesses.
“Our clients have proven time and time again that (the ski industry) has a dedicated, committed, passionate consumer base,” Foley said. “People out there whose lifestyle (includes mountain recreation) are not going to stop doing that forever.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.