Paige Blankenbuehler
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October 16, 2012
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Summit County winter lodging paints uncertain picture this season

A recent report about trends in mountain travel bookings show occupancy up slightly from last year, leaving an area of uncertainty for local ski resorts and lodging accommodations.

According to the most recent monthly reservation report the Mountain Travel Research Program, the overall occupancy is up 0.5 percent through March compared to the same time last year.

"It seems that both prospective guests and the resort suppliers are having reservations about booking reservations for the coming season," said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. "We anticipated that the positive economic news in September combined with a strong uptick in consumer confidence would be driving winter booking activity, but overall advanced reservation activity is essentially flat."

Still, local resorts and hotel managers are timidly optimistic this ski season, many speculating that prospective vacationers may be waiting until the end of the political season.

Pat Hovis, manager of Hotel Frisco said "It seems to be up from last year but we are still waiting to see a big boost, my sense is that a lot of people are waiting to see what happens in the presidential election."

Garrison advises those in the lodging industry to react quickly to the increase of skiers and snowboarders that make reservations during winter storms.

"Weather, economic trends and political events will all have an influence on this year's results," Garrison said.

Garrison also speculated that last year's disappointing snowfall in most of the country is contributing to a snow "hangover" and the reluctance of skiers and boarders to book mountain vacations until winter weather trends become more apparent.

"However, taking the optimistic view, it's still pretty early in the booking season. With approximately 40 percent of the ski season's reservations now on the books, there is lots of upside potential," Garrison said.

Hotel reservations in Summit County have seen a surge of activity during the holiday peak season between Dec. 18 and Jan. 5, according to Hovis.

"We have booked almost completely full already during that time," she said. "There's been huge activity lately for that month and we even have reservations made through the month of March already."

Though bookings exist, the vacancies at local hotels and ski resorts leave much uncertainty for the upcoming season and tourist economy.

"Consumer spending has slowed down lately, despite improving markets and stronger confidence because consumers, for the most part, have very little extra money to spend," explains Tom Foley, operations director for MTRiP.

As the industry waits for weather and political variables to have an impression, local lodging managers are optimistic from visitor feedback.

"Last week we had a guest stay here that was interested in doing big game hunting," Hovis said. "He and his wife usually went to Pagosa Springs to stay but decided to come here this year, they even extended their stay by a couple extra days."


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 16, 2012 09:00PM Published Oct 16, 2012 08:57PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.