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Hard numbers point to economic recovery in Summit County

Caddie Nath
Daily file photo/Mark Fox
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As the American economy continues its slow recovery, some recent indicators suggest that, after two hard years, Breckenridge, and to some extent, Summit County’s tourism industry may be on the mend as well.

Lodging occupancy in Breckenridge jumped 7 percent in 2010, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), and 2011 winter season bookings are pacing 4 percent ahead of last year.

Retail as well as restaurant and bar sales tax revenues also grew by nearly 7 percent each – the first increases in two years.

December was the best month in 10 years for Breckenridge’s restaurant sector, according to Mayor John Warner.

“I do think there’s an underlying upswing in our economy here in Breckenridge,” Warner said. He said he’d seem similar positive trends in business at his own local dental practice.

Frisco also posted some promising sales tax numbers at the end of 2010, with a more than 4 percent increase in restaurant-generated sales tax revenues and an 8 percent jump in recreational sales tax revenue from 2009.

Frisco saw decreases in lodging and retail sales tax revenues from 2009 to 2010.

Anecdotally, Frisco’s visitor volume appeared to increase last year, according to Frisco revenue specialist Chad Most, but people seemed to have curbed their spending while in town.

“In general, what 2010 really saw was more of a period of stabilization,” Most said. “The ancillary spending beyond recreation and eating, some of that extra spending that we may have seen in years past is really not happening.”

December was a good month for sales for the county as well, with sales tax revenues up 3.24 percent from December of last year. The county also posted better sales tax numbers in 2010 than expected, though revenues were still down approximately 5 percent from 2009.

The positive trends in Breckenridge lodging occupancy rates mirror growth in other ski communities in Colorado, said MTRiP director Ralf Garrison.

“Most of the destinations are digging out,” Garrison said. “They’re coming back to pre-2008 levels. Some dropped less to begin with, so they don’t have as far to come back.”

Breckenridge, Garrison said, was one of the ski destinations that weathered the recession relatively well and is now beginning to make up what ground it did lose.

Breckenridge is expected to be busy through the month of March, with lodging occupancy nearing 90 percent by the middle of the month as the spring break visitors begin arriving, according to data released by the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

“We are pleased with the growth and feel fortunate that this community had the vision to make ongoing investments in marketing,” the chamber’s president, John McMahon, said in a recent release. “We are continuing to see positive results.”

Breckenridge voters approved a 1 percent lodging tax increase in November to be directed toward town marketing efforts.

The new dollars are managed by the Breckenridge Marketing Advisory Committee, which allocated funding to existing events, such as the International Snow Sculpture Championships, as well as group marketing efforts and the online budget to extend summer tourism into the fall months, according to town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo.

“I think as long as we continue to come up with and embrace quality events that capture the tourists’ imagination, that Breckenridge will continue to do well,” Warner said.

Exceptional snowfall in Summit County this season is no doubt helping to entice visitors back.

In February, both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain surpassed the yearly average snowfall, with the two snowiest months yet to come. Breckenridge had seen more than 300 inches of snow as of Feb. 18 and Copper Mountain had 275 inches as of the end of February.


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