Breckenridge occupancy falters in dry ski season | SummitDaily.com

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Breckenridge occupancy falters in dry ski season

BRECKENRIDGE – Faced with exceptionally low snowpack this winter, Breckenridge lodging companies saw room occupancy fall “considerably” in March, according to the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

March occupancy was down 4 percent from the same month last year as overall occupancy for the winter paced 3 percent down from 2011, BRC data indicated.

Local lodging company owners say the well-reported dry conditions this season likely kept many Front Range customers home.

“It should be no surprise that the drop in our winter occupancy is due to the lack of snow, which caused our last minute Front Range visitor to come overnight less frequently,” Breckenridge Resort Managers president Toby Babich said. “Although we did lose quite a bit of Front Range business, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been considering the lack of snow this season.”

Visits from Texas also declined this season, according to BRC officials, but destination visitor bookings stayed strong and the guests in town seemed to enjoy March’s spring-like weather, Babich said.

“Our destination visitors really showed their loyalty to Breckenridge this year, booking early and often as the ski season was kicking into gear,” Babich said. “… it seemed hard for them to be unhappy with the warm temperatures and sunny days they experienced during their stay.”

Breckenridge’s decline in occupancy followed the trend of many resorts in the Western U.S., according to preliminary data from the Mountain Travel Research Project (MTRiP).

“Breckenridge seems to be holding its own compared to what else is going on out there,” BRC president John McMahon told the town council recently, adding that the marketing organization remains optimistic for the summer season.

Occupancy numbers declined across the region in January and February from the same period last year, according to MTRiP.

But both in Breckenridge and regionwide the decrease in numbers coincided with a slight increase in daily room rates. Breckenridge lodging rates gained 5 percent this winter, but the increase came “at the expense of volume and vacant rooms,” Babich said.

Still, MTRiP officials see the change as an indication that the economy, rather than snowfall, supported the lodging industry this year, allowing room rates to increase even as lift ticket sales remained sluggish.

April 2011 is also on track to outperform this month by 6 percent. Occupancy rates are expected to drop into the 10 percent range this week, while the third weekend of April is pacing flat to last year, at about 30 percent occupancy.