Lodging sets new summer records at western resorts
November 26, 2018
As expected, western resorts in the U.S. have broken their summer lodging records, which could be a good sign for Summit County's economy coming into the 2018-19 ski season so blessed by early snowfall.
Compared to summer 2017, occupancy was up 2.3 percent, the average daily rate was up 2.5 percent and revenue jumped 4.8 percent for participating western mountain properties that had their summer season end on Oct. 31.
The statistics were released Nov. 20 by Inntopia in the company's monthly DestiMetrics Market Briefing. Inntopia is a Denver-based market research firm hired by resorts, mountain communities, chambers of commerce and other groups to collect information on trends in the resort lodging industry.
Regardless of some ups and downs in individual months over the six-month summer period spanning May through October, the season set its sixth consecutive records for occupancy and average daily rate at the same time that revenue set a seventh consecutive record.
"Despite a rough wildfire season around the western U.S. and Canada that created smoky conditions over wide areas, the majority of our participating lodging properties reported minimal impact on their business," said Tom Foley, senior vice president for the business intelligence division of Inntopia.
"One of the most interesting findings from our data this summer was that summer occupancy is now getting very close to parity with winter," he said. Aggregated summer occupancy rates were surprisingly 97 percent of actual occupancy last winter.
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This doesn't necessarily appear to be true in Breckenridge, however. The town typically sees between $20-35 million in lodging sales most winter months but only logged $12.1 million this July, the most ever for any one summer month.
Still, lodging in Breckenridge is up 13 percent year to date through the first nine months of 2018, representing a $14.8 million jump over 2017 with over $129 million in sales so far.
The lodging industry's double-digit growth rate in Breckenridge is the second most dramatic across the town's eight sectors behind the catch-all category "other," which is up 15.78 percent with $1.9 million in sales year to date.
Lodging is considered an important industry for the local economy, not just because of the high-dollar totals it generates, but because lodging rates reflect trends in local tourism traffic, a driving force for many other economic categories.
In Frisco, the town's hotels and inns are actually down 1.03 percent year to date, but short-term rentals, up 22.72 percent, have offset losses at hotels and inns. The month of September was no outlier with hotels and inns down and vacation rentals up again.
"On the face of it, the decline in hotels and inns in September could easily be chalked up to changing consumer habits and a shift away form traditional lodgers toward vacation rentals," wrote the town's revenue specialist Chad Most in an analysis of Frisco's most recent sales tax receipts.
With summer in the books, DestiMetrics is now focused on the upcoming winter season and describing an early season cooling trend, which was first detected last month, as a "snow hangover."
In a year-over-year comparison to winter 2017, bookings for October arrivals in November declined 5.6 percent and December arrival bookings were down 3.9 percent as of Oct. 31. However, bookings made in October for arrivals at western destinations are up 18 percent for January, 11 percent for February and a whopping 37.4 percent for March.
"This data was collected through Oct. 31 and before significant snowfall fell at many mountain locations in early November and any impact from that will hopefully be more apparent in next month's report," Foley explained.
While snowfall plays a crucial role in resort destinations' lodging revenues, a strong economy is also vital, according to the firm, which sees many positive economic indicators suggesting this winter could be a good one.
"For most of the past decade, record summers have led to consecutively stronger winter seasons, but the pattern shifted slightly last year with inconsistent snow quality in much of the West, which seems to have at least temporarily halted the upward trends in winter occupancy," Foley said.
If the snowfall Summit County has seen in October and November continues throughout this winter, that won't be a problem locally.
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