Winter bookings looking strong so far | VailDaily.com

Winter bookings looking strong so far

By the numbers

6 percent: Increase in year-over-year average occupancy for Vail lodges.

13 percent: Increase in year-over-year average daily rate for Vail lodges.

20 percent: Increase in year-over-year revenue per available room for Vail lodges.

8.5 percent: Increase in lodging revenue for 2013/14 season over the 2007/08 season.

Source: Destimetrics survey of participating Vail lodges.

VAIL — This could be the year lodging occupancy and revenue finally surpass the old winter records set in the 2007-08 ski season. That said, there are still some deals out there for the few days before Christmas.

Let’s start with the immediate picture. If the forecast holds and the skies deliver a foot or more of snow in the next couple of days, then there’s still a chance for guests to book a couple nights before Christmas for some play in the powder. A look Friday at http://www.vailonsale.com showed five properties in Edwards and Avon with rooms available for less than $200 per night. Opening up the wallet a bit, the site shows another 18 priced between $200 and $400 per night.

“There are some deals out there for a two-night stay,” Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said. The Vail Valley Partnership runs the Vail on Sale website, a source for last-minute bookings. Many longer-term reservations are also made through the group.

‘A FEW’ ROOMS LEFT

Jeff Burrell, the general manager of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, said Friday that lodge had “a few” rooms left in the days before Christmas, But availability mostly dries up between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. That’s the case through virtually all of the valley’s lodging stock. “We’re between 97 and 98 percent full that week,” Romer said.

It is Christmas, after all.

For both lodge managers and vacationers, the calendar is kind this year. With both Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Thursdays, it’s easier to book a full week of vacation. Most families with kids in school are enjoying two full weeks of break, which makes traveling a bit easier to schedule.

INCREASE IN DEMAND

But Vail Valley guests are likely to pay a bit more this year than last. Destimetrics, a Denver area-based research and consulting company, measures lodging, rates and other data across mountain resorts. According to company founder Ralf Garrison, the rates for rooms in Vail look to be on the way up, and not just for holiday weeks or weekends.

Demand for rooms is high during those periods, which means lodges can charge more for their rooms. While the other mountain resorts have yet to return to the peaks set in 2007-08, it looks as if Vail will surpass those peaks this season. Destimetrics estimates a seasonal revenue increase of about 13 percent for Vail, while lodging revenue in competing resorts is still about 5 percent behind the records set in the previous decade.

Garrison recently presented a host of numbers and figures to the Vail Town Council and the Vail Economic Advisory Council. The news was virtually all good.

Garrison said the national economy continues to improve, the price of fuel is dropping and the Case Schiller U.S. National Home Price Index has finally returned to the levels posted in 2008. That all adds up to people more willing to travel, and spend.

As of Nov. 30, 63 percent of Vail’s lodging business had been reserved, a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2013. Beyond that, day-to-day bookings have increased virtually every week of the current season compared to the previous one. Beyond a slight dip in November occupancy, the remainder of the season is up.

And, Garrison said, Vail is leading other mountain resorts in both occupancy and revenues. The strength in reservations continues into April, due in part to Easter Sunday falling earlier in April.

Burrell said he’s seeing the same thing at The Westin in Avon.

“January and February are pretty well booked,” Burrell said. “We’re pacing ahead of last year across the board.”

That strength in demand is starting to turn into more lodges requiring minimum stays again, Garrison said.

In Vail, economic advisory council member Michael Kurz said, “there’s no bad news” in the most recent report.

But, he said, “It’s important to remember we can’t sit back, even for a moment. … The idea is to put the pressure on to ensure the (guest) experience is fantastic.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.