Breckenridge lodging industry reports strong spring break
Lodging association president hopes for eased restrictions heading into summer
Spring break meant high occupancy levels for the Breckenridge lodging industry this year, with bookings up 6% over the period compared to 2019. While private security was hired by Breckenridge to enforce public health orders, lodging companies didn’t report trouble when it came to visitors respecting town, county and state rules.
Bill Wishowski, director of operations at the Breckenridge Tourism Office, reported in an email that average occupancy in town reached 78% between March 6 and April 3, with a peak of 89% on March 18. During the peak spring break week from March 12 to March 20, average occupancy was at 85%.
Breckenridge placed private security guards on Main Street from mid-March through the beginning of April to enforce public health orders and town ordinances, including mask-wearing in the town’s mandatory mask zone. The idea was to support front-line workers from visitors who may be disgruntled over local COVID-19 restrictions.
Town spokesperson Haley Littleton said the security guards spoke to about 40 people per day on average during the patrolling period. She noted that the rate of people complying with local restrictions was about 85%.
Breckenridge Lodging Association President Toby Babich said the industry handled spring break similar to the winter season, reaching out themselves to inform guests of local COVID-19 restrictions prior to arrival with the help of groups like the Breckenridge Tourism Office.
“We really want our guests to not only be able to integrate into our community up here and keep everyone safe, but we want them to have a good experience as well,” Babich said. “And that’s all set forth by communicating properly.”
Overall, Babich felt the communication efforts went well. He said that while there would always be a few guests pushing back against requirements, the majority of people were familiar with and compliant with restrictions.
Babich, who is also the president of Breckenridge Resort Managers, said occupancy levels were on par with what he expected. He said his company’s occupancy was up last month compared to March 2019, which is being used as the point of comparison due to shutdowns last year. He continued to say that occupancy differs depending on the type of lodging or short-term rental unit, as larger homes are more impacted by current restrictions, which limit lodging units to no more than two households and no more than 10 people, compared to studio or one-bedroom units.
While Babich noted that he saw some businesses like restaurants and ski rental shops have a hard time keeping up with demand over spring break, he didn’t have any guests complain that they had difficulties using Vail Resorts’ reservation system to get on the mountain and ski. He said he felt that it was an overall successful season given the circumstances, and the lodging industry was able to manage and fulfill guest expectations.
“We’ve had a large amount of guests leave very satisfied with their vacation to Breckenridge, and … that makes our season a win in my book based on what we went into the season looking at,” Babich said.
Looking ahead, Babich said the industry is gearing up for the summer and lobbying Summit County officials to get rid of the two-household rule when the state eliminates the dial system later this month.
“I think it’s time to start moving forward again,” Babich said. “With the amount of people that have been vaccinated, the capacity levels that continue to fall in our hospital systems and just peoples’ continuing awareness of good safety measures, I think it’s time to start rolling back our household restrictions and letting our industry function as it did before.”
Bruce Horii, director of sales and marketing at Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, said the resort was very busy during what he called “Texas week” — a period between March 12-18 when numerous Texas schools were on spring break. The following week was slightly less busy but still had strong numbers, Horii said.
“Pretty much all through March held up pretty well,” Horii said. “The last week of March into that first week in April, which was Easter, held very strong.”
Historically, Horii said Beaver Run sees a lot of visitors from Latin America during the Holy Week leading up to Easter. He said these guests were again present this year. Overall, Horii said visitors were compliant and respectful of local restrictions, and the resort didn’t experience the backlash that was a concern around town entering spring break.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Horii said. “At least on the property, everybody was pretty compliant. … There were a few exceptions, but we didn’t really have much pushback. If we approached someone and said, ‘Sir, could you wear your mask?’ they complied.”
Horii said one thing that did come up was guests who had been vaccinated asking if they still needed to comply with mask restrictions. Resort staff explained to these guests that there aren’t yet any exceptions for people who have been vaccinated.
Occupancy levels were restricted at Beaver Run due to capacity restrictions and staffing shortages. While reaching full occupancy wasn’t an option, the resort reached around 90% occupancy for most of the spring break period. After Easter, the resort was seeing around 50% occupancy, which Horii said is normal for that time of year.
As for summer expectations, Horii said the resort is still seeing a lot of cancellations for conference business. He anticipates strong individual business, and he is optimistic that group business will return toward the end of July and into the fall.
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