Vail Valley lodging: there are signs of cautious optimism |

Vail Valley lodging: there are signs of cautious optimism

Industry tracker: Mountain resort lodging revenue recently saw the first year-over-year increase since February

Booking patterns at local hotels including the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, shown here, show guests are reserving rooms closer to their travel dates.
Special to the Daily |
By the numbers
  • 69.4%: Increase from 2019 in in-month September bookings across 18 mountain resort destinations.
  • 14.8%: Decline in overall occupancy across those mountain resorts.
  • 80.2%: Increase from 2019 in bookings made in September for October arrival.
  • 33.9%: Decrease from 2019 in bookings for November through April.
Source: Inntopia DestiMetrics.

Summer business in the Vail Valley was better than many people thought it would be. What that means for the coming months is anyone’s guess.

The latest data from research firm Inntopia Destimetrics indicates there were broad declines in occupancy across 18 mountain resorts. But the report also notes that there were revenue gains from the previous year for the first time since February.

The report notes that the trend of short-lead bookings has continued through the summer. That means bookings in September for September arrival shot up nearly 70% from the previous year. Still, overall occupancy declined from 2019.

In the report, Tom Foley, senior vice president for business operations and analytics for Inntopia, said, “Tough as this summer has been, we are finally seeing some ‘wins’ with this month’s data. This is the first month since the pandemic started that we have seen year-over-year gains in revenue, with modest improvements for both October and November.”

While booking lead times have shrunk significantly during the pandemic, Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa General Manager Kristen Pryor said that trend has been developing over the past few years.

A pretty good summer

Pryor said after being shut down in April and open only to “essential” travel in May, the Westin from June on had a busy summer. Much of that business came from guests booking in the same month they planned to travel.

That business was nearly double what it had been in previous years, Pryor said.

That trend — if anything happening in lodging right now can be classified as a trend — is continuing into the fall.

Reservations in October for October stays are “strong,” Pryor said, adding that bookings for November-December and January-February are “pacing well.”

At the Sitzmark Lodge in Vail, general manager Jeanne Fritch said summer at that property was so-so, with the early weeks of winter trending toward “not bad.” But, she added, January and February bookings don’t look good right now.

“I thought reservations would pick up when everybody made their decisions on their season pass,” Fritch said. “We didn’t see the pickup I thought.”

The good news, Fritch said, is that the Sitzmark is holding firm on its rates.

Better than the Great Recession

Still, even with a so-so summer, occupancy and revenue still outpaced those from the downturn seen from 2009-2012 and the Great Recession.

At Vail’s Hotel Sebastian, Michael Rudek, who specializes in group sales, said December reservations are looking “fairly good,” with a slower pace for January and February bookings.

The Sebastian has launched a couple of promotions to attract guests, a “buy more, save more” promotion as well as a deal aimed at drive-up guests from Colorado.

As is the case with many hotels, Rudek said people are willing to drive more to come to the mountains. One wedding party from Texas had participants who drove from that state.

While winter reservations will depend on a number of factors, the COVID-19 pandemic has little to do with the main thing that drives people to the mountains in the winter: snow.

“That’s the first step,” Fritch said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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