Winter lodging business ‘solid’ for 2013 season

DENVER — The winter season crossed the finish line with a positive outcome for mountain lodging in both western and eastern mountain destinations according to the latest data released by the Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP.

According to the consulting company’s most recent data, a slow start to the season in the west was reversed with improving snow conditions and economic news throughout the winter and resulted in an aggregated 5.8 percent increase in actual occupancy and an 8.8 percent increase in total lodging revenues compared to the 2011-12 season. Overall skier days were also up for the season, posting an 11 percent increase to 56.6 million compared to last year’s numbers, according to the National Ski Areas Association. However, total visits were still well below the record-setting 61 million mark posted in the 2010-11 season.

“After a shaky start to the winter season, the new year brought better weather conditions and increasingly positive economic conditions simultaneously — a combination we haven’t enjoyed for several years,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “While the shift in the Easter holiday to March this year resulted in an anticipated slow April, excellent late season conditions bode well for good ‘snow equity’ going into next season.”

As of April 30, advance reservations currently on the books for the next six months, May through October, are up an aggregated 8.4 percent compared to the same time last year, and overall revenues are trending up 13.9 percent. Increases in bookings are up in all summer months including the historically slow month of May, up 9.9 percent compared to last year.

“Currently, some of the more established summer destinations are now surpassing the all-time records set last year or during pre-recession times,” Garrison said.

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MTRiP’s “econometrics,” a monthly review of key economic indicators, focused on some important metrics for travel and tourism. The national unemployment rate dropped for the third consecutive month, down one basis point to 7.5 percent, and the Consumer Confidence Index rebounded from March declines with a 10 percent increase. Crude oil prices dipped slightly for some slight relief at the pump and, while the Consumer Price Index edged up in March, the national inflation rate declined moderately. And, although mainly symbolic for most consumers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued the upward momentum that started in January 2013 and ended the month 12.3 percent higher than April 2012.

“We had a couple of hiccups to bookend this ski season with the slow snow start and then a relatively quiet April because of the Easter holiday shifting back to March this year, but overall, things are looking pretty good,” said Tom Foley, MTRiP’s director of operations. “Skiers and snowboarders returned to the mountains last season, financial markets created a sense of returning security and employers have finally started consistently adding 200,000-plus new jobs each month, which will boost consumer confidence in the long run. In combination, that is a lot of good news for mountain tourism.”

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