Vail Valley winter reservations lag behind last year |

Vail Valley winter reservations lag behind last year

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Given a slow national economy, it’s not surprising that winter reservations are slower than they were last year. But we’re running out of time to make up one of the biggest dips.

The Vail Valley Partnership Tuesday released the latest reservations and occupancy data it receives from the Mountain Travel Research Project. This batch of charts and graphs is a track for both the summer season just past and the winter season to come.

The summer hotel occupancy numbers for and were either a little below or slightly above last year’s. And July and August in Vail were close to last year’s numbers.

But reservations for the coming ski season are behind ” and in some cases far behind ” last year’s numbers.

The December numbers are the biggest worry, since that calendar page is just a couple of weeks away.

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The most telling chart from the consultants is the one that shows current reservations for December versus last year, and then what the actual December occupancy was last year. Last year, 47 percent of Vail’s rooms had been reserved by Halloween.

This year’s number is just 36 percent. The actual occupancy rate in 2007 was about 63 percent, so the numbers have farther to climb this year to hit last year’s level.

Another uncomfortable number is canceled reservations.

Mountain Travel Research Project co-owner Ralf Garrison said his company’s tracking software stops working when it gets some kinds of numbers, like if cancellations outnumber reservations. But that’s what’s happened at some reporting lodges recently.

“Apparently people reserved rooms early, then when they were at the point when they had to confirm or cancel and still get a refund, they canceled,” Garrison said.

Garrison’s company has only been measuring data on occupancy, reservations and room rates for a few years. But this year marked a first ” average daily rates have started to drop.

Usually, if rates drop, occupancy goes up. But in some of Garrison’s charts, both rates and occupancy have gone down from last year.

The problem, Garrison said, is that logic has largely disappeared from consumer decisions.

“We may be in a situation where there may not be a price low enough to affect a consumer’s decision,” Garrison said.

“The market right now is irrational and unpredictable,” Garrison added.

While no one’s crystal ball is working at the moment ” is there anyone who would have predicted oil’s fall below $60 per barrel in August? ” Garrison believes a couple of things.

“When indicators are no longer predictable, consumers will go with their gut,” he said.

What that means, he said, is that now is a particularly good time to listen to customers.

“You need to act on what they’re telling you,” he said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

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