Breckenridge, Summit County busy over the holidays, visitation data comparable to previous years
At the beginning of the 2022-23 winter season there was anxiety that the Christmas and New Year holidays would not bring the same amount of visitors to the Summit County and Breckenridge area.
The visitation projection for the upcoming ski season was discussed momentarily at the Ski Area Chief Operating Officer (COO) Summit on Oct. 14, 2022 at the Keystone Conference Center. Because school’s holiday breaks began just a day before Christmas Day, ski resorts were worried that Breckenridge and Summit County would see a dip in visitation and lodging bookings.
The prediction for the holidays did not prove to be accurate, however, as initially estimated.
“Breckenridge definitely experienced a strong holiday period overall,” Breckenridge Tourism Office public relations director Lauren Swanson said.
According to a report by Destimetrics — a business intelligence branch of Inntopia that collects data from different vacation destinations — occupancy in Breckenridge was down just 2% year over year, but basically flat when compared to the 2019-20 holiday season.
“Which of course is kind of the last quote-unquote normal, pre-covid year that we like to look at,” Swanson said of the 2019-20 data point.
The Destimetrics report specifically looked at occupancy rates from Dec. 16 to Jan. 7. The report collected data through Dec. 31, but also included bookings that were made on Dec. 31 and stretched into the new year.
“So if somebody on Dec. 31, for example, booked Jan. 6, that would count,” Swanson said. “The piece that is missing there is how much it filled in between Dec. 31 and Jan. 7, but the numbers were really strong anyways.”
In the same report, Destimetrics reported that room nights booked from Dec. 16 to Jan. 7 were down 3% year over year and remained essentially flat from the 2019-20 pre-covid year.
“The 2022-23 holiday season was really comparable and really strong to previous years,” Swanson said. “Being within a few points of that year-over-year mark and then being flat to the 2019-20 season points towards a strong holiday.”
Although occupancy numbers were similar to the last few years, Swanson does feel like the day of the week that the holidays fell on and school’s holiday break schedules did play a minor role in the visitation numbers seen in Breckenridge.
“The school break calendar, but also the days of the week that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day all fell on this year definitely influenced visitation over the holiday season,” Swanson said. “Looking at the overall data from that same time period of Dec. 16 to Jan. 7, it is consistent with prior years but there is a shift of activity moving from December into January.”
Data from the town of Breckenridge’s mobility team also points to the fact that Breckenridge was a hot spot for visitors throughout the holidays.
Breckenridge assistant mobility director Matt Hulsey reported that parking in Breckenridge’s in-town operated lots and on-street parking was up 7% when compared to last year for the period of Dec. 16 to Jan. 7.
With December traffic counts at both the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and Tiger Road flat or slightly down when compared to December 2021, Hulsey feels like the increase may be because of Breckenridge’s carpooling discount for paid lots.
“If I had to make a decision on what caused that increase, I would actually say the same people that might have been utilizing free parking options at Airport Road in prior years are now using pay options possibly due to the town and ski resort partnering to give a 50% discount to car poolers with four or more people in their cars,” Hulsey said in an email.
In terms of Breckenridge’s Free Ride bus program, ridership was technically down around 20% year over year during the same time frame. Hulsey did note that that Breckenridge is offering 30% less bus service this year when compared to last year, which could provide an explanation for the drop in ridership.
The last factor that played a role in visitation in Summit County and Breckenridge over the holidays was snow. Like any major mountain community, last-minute bookings were fueled by the influx of snow that Summit County saw throughout the latter part of December and into the new year.
“Snow is a motivating factor for winter destinations like Breckenridge, especially around the holidays,” Swanson said. “A lot of folks book their holiday plans in advance, so I think the snow influences last minute bookings a lot more.”
After a brief reprise from holiday crowds, Summit County is expected to see a bump in visitation because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend from Saturday, Jan. 14, through Monday, Jan. 16.
The influx of snow Summit saw on Wednesday, Jan. 11, through Thursday morning is expected to bring even more visitors to the the county.
Just west of Summit County, Vail businesses reported strong tourism throughout the holidays despite the pessimistic outlook heading into the season.
“We started very slow, then built up,” Josephine DeLucing, gallery director at the C. Anthony Gallery in Beaver Creek said, adding Thursday that the resort’s parking garage had been full all day, with a number of people enjoying a sunny day on the mountain.
Ahead of Dec. 25, Vail Resorts issued a report that expected tourism to drop throughout the holidays because of increased competition at vacation destinations since the pandemic restrictions lifted and people could travel out of state and out of country as they enjoyed their time away from work and school.
That report also said it was pessimistic since room rates have risen dramatically due to rising costs of living and inflation.
However, the lines at Breckenridge Ski Resort and around town told a different story.
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