Vail Valley: Mountain resort occupancy up, but barely
Vail, CO Colorado
BANFF Alberta – A cross section of travel research experts spoke April 14 at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Banff, Alberta to talk about the challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of mountain travel.
Nearly 1,000 mountain travel professionals from around the world traveled to Banff to attend the 35th annual Mountain Travel Symposium, the largest gathering of its kind in North America.
Presenters Peter Yesawich of Ypartnership, Philip Wolf, of PhoCusWright, Jan Freitag, of Smith Travel Research and Ralf Garrison, founder and director of the Mountain Travel Research Program talked about the current state of the mountain travel industry and identified areas essential to future success. Garrison also delivered his company’s latest data about mountain resort lodging occupancy.
Garrison said data as of Mar. 31 indicate that occupancy at mountain resorts participating in the Mountain Travel Research Program’s database have surpassed last season, but barely – by 1.3 percent.
“From a seasonal standpoint, we have finally exceeded last winter’s numbers in terms of occupancy,” said “But we need to be very careful when we look at what we’re comparing. Last year was an anomaly, and one of the hardest years in our history. This is good news, but we’re continuing to progress in inches, not feet.”
Garrison said the positive attitude among the attendees doing business in the trade show portion of the Symposium is an anecdotal sign of positive momentum in the industry.
However, Garrison cautioned that rate sensitivity continued in March, a point highlighted by Freitag of Smith Travel Research.”Rate strategy will be crucial in the coming years,” Freitag said. He urged lodging professionals to closely examine how they use rate fluctuations to stimulate demand. Data as of February 2010 collected by Smith Travel Research showed a positive change in demand, rising almost 3 percent compared to February of 2009.
Yesawich said travelers are embracing a new standard of frugality. He said trends shown by Ypartnership data demonstrate that travel activity remains high, but added that a variety of factors, from increased connectivity to longer work weeks to economic uncertainty have shortened vacations.
“The good news is, people are traveling,” Yesawich said. “But, they are traveling differently.”
Both Yesawich and Wolf talked about the impact of technology on how consumers now shop and buy travel.
“Because travelers rely on technology every step of the way, companies in the business have to stay current on technological trends. It’s not an option,” Wolf said. Asserting the influence of search technology, Yesawich described how travelers can now shop several elements of vacations online with a single click, a phenomenon Wolf believes is eroding brand equity.
All presenters agreed on the need to learn from the past but to focus attention on the future and the variables that can be controlled. “Nobody wants to dwell on what has happened,” Yesawich said. “We want to focus on what will happen.”