December in Breckenridge was as busy as it was pre-pandemic
Visitors’ dissatisfaction reflected in surveys about their experience
For the town of Breckenridge, the 2021 holiday season was the busiest it has been since before the pandemic, which was a problem for some visitors who noticed the reduced level of service at understaffed businesses.
At Breckenridge Town Council’s first meeting of the year Tuesday, Jan. 11, Breckenridge Tourism Office CEO Lucy Kay updated council on the town’s occupancy over the start of the winter season and the holidays.
Compared to December 2020, room nights were up 16% in December 2021, and the average daily rate was up 34%. The metrics look at the total number of nights a unit is booked in the month and the average cost for a night in a room, respectively.
Mayor Eric Mamula said his own business, which has been established in town for over 30 years, had its biggest December ever by at least 18% despite having limited staff.
Looking at the entire winter season, which goes from November through April for the tourism office, Kay said nights occupied are up 37% and the average daily rate is up 26%. These figures include what has already occurred since November as well as what is on the books for the rest of the season, so the numbers change as the season goes on.
The tourism office recently switched what metric it uses to analyze its occupancy, and instead of looking at how much of the total room stock is occupied, it now looks at total room nights occupied. Kay said this is a better metric because if a new building with additional rooms comes online and some sit empty, the occupancy rate might be lower than it previously was despite there being more rooms booked.
Because of this change, it is hard to compare the numbers to 2019 because the occupancy rates look at different metrics. But Kay said the 2021 Christmas season was definitely comparable to 2019 in terms of visitation.
Visitor satisfaction down
The tourism office has also done intercept surveys, or man-on-the-street interviews, for many years, where it walks up to random folks around town to ask about their experience in Breckenridge. Kay said the most significant change from these surveys over the holidays was the town’s net promoter score, an industry-standard metric that measures how likely someone would be to recommend visiting Breckenridge. Around Christmastime, Breckenridge’s net promoter score was down 16 points from 2020 at 72.
“It is rare for Breck to ever be in the 70s,” Kay said. “It’s not surprising. It’s understandable with the staffing challenges and everything, but it’s really showing up in the net promoter score. So it really speaks to how much we need to support our front line and make sure that they know how critically important they are.”
Council member Kelly Owens wondered how many people who weren’t happy with their visit simply felt the town was just too crowded with too many lines.
“Hopefully, this pandemic scenario, we’re going to learn to live with it, but the crowding issue is one that really concerns me,” Owens said.
After Tuesday night’s meeting, Kay said she spoke with the tourism office’s research company, which told her that a dip in net promoter scores was common across many destinations this winter.
Kay said scores being lower makes sense given the staffing shortages and lower service levels and that this can push the town to refocus and do anything it can to fill service-industry jobs and support them however possible.
With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend as well as the International Snow Sculpture Championships quickly approaching, council wants to make sure the town continues to run smoothly with high volumes of visitors.
Kay said parking occupancy has been close to 80% to 90% in town without a major event. In an attempt to mitigate traffic in town during the snow sculpture event, the town will require free reservations for those looking to see the snow sculptures Saturday, Jan. 29. Reservations will be for a two-hour slot of 10 a.m. to noon, noon to 2 p.m. or 2-4 p.m.
The town encourages folks to see the sculptures outside of peak weekend viewing dates, including Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, when no reservations are required.
The sculpting week kicks off at 11 a.m. Jan. 24 and will continue through 9 a.m. Jan. 28. The final sculptures will be on display from Jan 28 to Feb. 2, when they will be taken down at 7 p.m. Kay said one team dropped out of the championship, meaning nine teams will compete for the title, including three international teams.
More details on the snow sculpture championships can be found at GoBreck.com/event.
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