Will we have a fifth record-breaking summer?
By the numbers
2.1 percent: April decline, from March, in the Consumer Confidence Index.
28 percent: Increase since 2014 in the cost of a vacation for a visitor using Euros.
4: Summer lodging revenue record years 2012 — 2015.
11.6 percent: Increase in occupancy across the mountain region booked as of April 30.
EAGLE COUNTY — It’s been a long time since a Vail Valley summer could be defined as being quiet. Barring unforeseen disasters, this summer will continue that climb in activity.
After a good winter in the Vail Valley, lodging occupancy and revenues are poised to set another record this summer. That’s also true across the 19 mountain resorts monitored by Denver-based Destimetrics, a market research and analysis firm.
“We’re looking good early and late, through the spring and fall, and on weekends and weekdays,” Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said. The partnership is both the area’s chamber of commerce and works to generate group business.
Romer said this summer’s business — much of which hasn’t booked yet — is a combination of both leisure travelers and groups. Those groups range from corporate bookings to families coming to the valley for various sports tournaments and events.
Demand up, business up
With demand up, rates are higher, too. Those rates are also being driven by the fact that more people are booking fewer rooms, since the Vail Cascade is closed for the summer for an extensive renovation.
That group business looks to remain strong, too. Romer said business is up 30 percent in the partnership’s leads generation office, which looks to book corporate and other groups.
“We’re going into (2017) and even (2018) now,” Romer said.
While rates are up, they’re still far below peak-season winter rates. That’s good too, Romer said, adding that huge jumps in summer rates simply aren’t sustainable.
The warm-weather lodging picture is also being extended, as more events are held in the area. The Bravo! Vail Music Festival’s season has been extended by a week this summer, and more tournaments and other events are on the horizon.
Destimetrics Director of Operations Tom Foley said travel across the region should grow as more consumers get an idea of all summer and fall have to offer.
“Consumers are starting to understand the summer magnet,” Foley said. “It’s activities, and, in many cases, the new identity of a destination.”
That identity is starting to be defined more as “mountains” than simply “snow,” Foley said.
The greatest growth so far has been in September and October, Foley said. That’s in line with the message that resorts are putting out to the public.
“It’s not summer. It’s not crowded, but it’s not winter and cold, either,” he said.
The growth in summer business will come over time, too, as more resorts take advantage of the 2014 Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act, which expanded potential uses at ski areas into the summer.
Vail Resorts is at the forefront of planning for summer activities on ski areas, and will unveil the range of its Epic Discovery package.
Foley said other resorts are still evaluating the best ways to take advantage of that federal law.
“Everybody’s going to move at their own pace,” Foley said. “But there are advantages in Vail.”
There’s still plenty of competition for summer travelers’ business. Other towns have well-established events, Foley said. And Jackson, Wyoming, sits at the southern edge of two popular national parks. Other western destinations, particularly in California, have long-established reputations as places to beat the summer heat.
And, while everyone wants destination and international business — those guests tend to stay longer and spend more — it’s going to be hard to grow international business due to the strength of the U.S. dollar, Foley said. The dollar’s strength makes a U.S. visit more expensive — especially with rising lodging rates. Conversely, the strong dollar also makes summer travel from the U.S. to other countries more attractive.
“People may not want to drive (to Canada), but they may be willing to fly for a less-expensive vacation,” Foley said.
Then, there’s the fact this is a presidential election year. Those tend to be good for the economy, Foley said. But this year’s major-party candidates don’t provide much precedent for reading economic tea leaves.
Still, barring unforeseen natural disasters or international incidents, the summer is shaping up to be a good one.
“We’re on solid-to good footing right now,” Foley said. “But that can change.”
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