Vail winter occupancy numbers up from last year |

Vail winter occupancy numbers up from last year

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL – Chris Romer has spent the last year looking for silver linings. Now he thinks he’s found some genuine blue sky.

Romer, the sales and marketing director for the Vail Valley Partnership, has found that clear patch in the economic clouds in the latest Vail-specific study from the Mountain Travel Research Project, a Denver-based consulting company that studies the mountain resort industry.

The latest numbers, gathered from a survey of 18 Vail hotels and lodges, show some actual good news: Reservation numbers for November, December and January are actually up over last year. And while Vail’s reservations are up, bookings are still down, on average, at a group of 12 resorts in the Mountain West.

“This isn’t just ‘less bad’ – this is actual good news,” Romer said.

Of course, the reservation numbers for the next few months are still well off the records set in the 2007-08 season. Still, more people are booking rooms this year than did last year.

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The full story of the season to come is just starting, of course, but Romer expects that the valley should have the core of its winter reservations made by, roughly, the end of this month.

“Advance bookings are a real positive for lodges,” he said. “It helps people plan for their staffing, and gives a little certainty.”

With that said, Romer added that he expects one of last year’s travel trends to keep growing.

“I think we’ll still see plenty of last-minute bookings,” Romer said.

Those last-minute reservations don’t just come from the Front Range, either. Plenty of people take advantage of last-minute flight and lodging deals, then fly in for a weekend.

Commercial passenger numbers at the Eagle County Regional Airport were down just 2.5 percent last season. This year, at least through the end of October, the numbers for the coming season are up 4 percent from last year.

“That puts us up about 2 percent from the last season before the recession hit,” airport operations manager Chris Anderson said.

With the trend toward advance bookings showing no signs of letting up, Romer said lodges need to push value as much as they can.

A “locals special” recently unveiled by the Cascade Resort is a good example of what lodges can do to lure those value-watchers, Romer said.

“People have a lot of choices,” Romer said. “It’s really important to continue to offer value.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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