Vail’s lodging, revenue numbers better than other resorts |

Vail’s lodging, revenue numbers better than other resorts

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL ” Falling reservations and sales tax revenue aren’t good. But Vail’s doing better than other mountain resorts.

The Vail Economic Advisory Council Tuesday got a load of numbers on sales taxes and lodging so far this season. And while the numbers aren’t great, there are some bright spots ” or at least some not-so-dark spots, including:

Last-minute reservations

The Mountain Travel Research Project tracks advance reservations at 15 mountain resorts. Those numbers aren’t good. The better news from Vail on Sale, the Vail Valley Partnership’s Web-based reservation system that lets people book a maximum of three weeks before they travel. Reservations booked through that site nearly doubled in January of this year over 2008 numbers, and last-minute deals are making lodging occupancy numbers look better than they did earlier this season.

For instance, advance reservations for March were down 27 percent from 2008. With the month less than two weeks old, last-minute bookings have filled that hole significantly. February reservations were down 13 percent in January, and finished the month down less than 8 percent.

The “less bad” news extends to sales tax collections, too. The Colorado Association of Ski Towns has surveyed sales and use tax collections from seven area resort towns including Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Breckenridge. All seven started the ski season down from the year before, but Vail was down the least, and by quite a lot.

December revenue ” the last month measured in the survey ” was down about 6.5 percent in Vail. The next-best bad news came from Steamboat Springs, which was down 9 percent from December 2007.

But a couple of Vail business owners cautioned that Vail’s sales tax numbers may paint too rosy a picture.

Tap Room owner Steve Kaufman said there was an extra weekend day in January this year compared to last. That means sales tax collections were actually worse than the statistics indicate, he said. And those statistics have Vail at about 2006 levels for sales tax collections.

While the business picture isn’t good, Vail’s marketing efforts seem to be doing a good job of wooing Front Range skiers with a combination of the Epic Pass and the Vail All the Love marketing campaign.

Research from Vail Resorts indicates that Vail’s share of Front Range skiers has gone up this season, from about 10 percent of the market to about 17 percent.

Kelli McDonald, the town of Vail’s economic development director, said so far $1.8 million in new business can be attributed to Vail All the Love. Targeting Front Range skiers also seems to have put Vail at a competitive advantage.

“Vail led the ski industry in occupancy in October,” Vail Valley Partnership Sales and Marketing Director Chris Romer said. “We were number two in January, and we’re leading the industry by a significant margin in February, March and April.”

Looking to the Eagle County Regional Airport, Romer said passenger numbers are running about even with last year’s totals.

“In this environment, doing less bad is actually pretty good,” he said.

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

Up 22: Percent increase in group bookings over last year.

Down 7.8: Percent drop in February reservations from 2008.

But: February bookings were still down 13 percent in January.

Down 18.7: Drop in March reservations from 2008.

But: March reservations were down 27 percent in January.

Down 6.46: Vail sales tax collections in December from 2007.

But: Aspen was down 19.46 percent in December.

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