Summit County business: Trending positive and loving it
Ryan Summerlin February 11, 2013
All over Summit County, businesses are waiting to see if increased lodging numbers and additional snowfall will result in some good numbers for the upcoming months.
According to the occupancy report put out by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), Breckenridge saw an increase in lodging occupancy for the month of January. The positive trend continued into the first weekend of February, which also showed an increase over numbers from last year.
“The first quarter of 2013 has finally brought true growth to the lodging sector, with rates and occupancy climbing simultaneously, giving us the first period of solid and sustained growth we have witnessed in many winters,” Toby Babich, president at Breckenridge Resort Managers, stated in an email. “I hope to see us close out this season by maintaining this trend through April.”
Although Presidents Day weekend looks to be behind last season, the report stated that roughly 90 percent occupancy should still be expected, with the following weekend showing strongly compared to 2012. Though early March may be a bit softer, the rates should increase later in the month.
The positive trend in lodging and occupancy should begin to correlate with increased business for the towns, said Corry Mihm, executive director of the Summit Independent Business Alliance (SIBA).
“Occupancy numbers are the No. 1 driver of what business and retail and restaurant and service industries will be,” she said. “Any time you see occupancy numbers on the upswing and being positive, that’s gong to drive business, particularly in retail and restaurants.”
Once visitors get to town, they’ll spend their money there, said Rachel Zerowin, public relations manager at the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. “Whenever we see strong overnight visitation or multi-night visitation, those people are in town – they’re eating, they’re drinking, they’re shopping and they’re doing activities.”
One of the biggest factors in occupancy reports is snow. While last year’s dry season and this year’s slow start negatively impacted lodging and business within the county, the storms that have come in already are helping to turn that around.
“It seems that it’s been a little touch and go,” said Sheri Shelton, owner of Hand and Glove in Breckenridge. “It’s a lot dependent on the snow. Now that it’s snowing it will be a lot better because it will drive traffic from down in the Front Range.”
Shelton estimates that her business is about “neck in neck” compared to last year, which isn’t a band thing, she said, but she hopes it will start to follow the increasing positive trend.
This is a sentiment shared throughout the county, including at the Dillon Dam Brewery.
“We’re very happy with the amount of business we have,” said Barb Richard, marketing manager for the brewery. “It’s trending similar to last year, but last for us was not a bad year. Things are going well for us and we’re hopeful with the new snow that it will continue.”
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Silverthorne, with its location close to Interstate 70, said that while the numbers have been about the same, it has noticed an increase in customers
“We’ve been busy,” said co-owner Kelsey Lyons. “We feel like people are spending money.”
Others have said that they’ve already started to see an upswing in their business.
“It’s better this year, it’s definitely better,” said Mary Elaine Moore, owner of Around the World Toys and Stork and Bear Company in Frisco. “They’re skiing but they’re also shopping and enjoying other activities as well.”
Moore cited the pull of unique town main streets as one factor she believed pulled visitors in, which the Breckenridge Welcome Center confirmed.
“A lot of people are coming in looking for activities to do, especially activities other than skiing,” said Kate Christopher, information specialist at the welcome center.
Upcoming events will likely increase the number of visitors walking around town, Zerowin said. “Those are going to give some good reasons for some last minute fill.”
“That really helps drive interest in Summit County as compared to other places,” Mihm agreed. She added that an improving economy may also be a contributing factor in local business growth.
“We had some very strong summer months, so if that is part of a broader trend, (if) our areas are recovering to pre-recession levels, then that really helps.”
“Though increased and sustained growth may yet fluctuate, to this point, the trend is something everyone in Breckenridge has been hoping for since 2008,” Babich stated. “Excitement is in the air and winter has brought all of us a welcome increase in tourism to Breckenridge. Trending positive, and we are loving it.”