Short-term lodging continues to see lower interest despite reduced restrictions
Summit County’s move to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial means fewer restrictions for short-term lodging businesses, but some in the industry are still struggling to fill reservations.
While the county was in level red, gatherings were limited to one household. In level orange, gatherings are able to include up to two households or 10 people. The change in gathering size impacts short-term lodging facilities as well, allowing more than one household to stay together in the same location.
Still, interest has not increased much since the move to level orange on Monday, Jan. 4, according to Toby Babich, president of the Breckenridge Lodging Association.
“It’s having a small amount of impact,” he said. “We’re still seeing a lot of what I would call ’restriction hangover’ from our guests who are very tentative to book for fear that we could slip back into a more restrictive state.”
While interest hasn’t necessarily increased, short-term rental owners and managers are at least seeing fewer cancellations.
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“We’ll get the booking and then we’ll call the guest and confirm that they know the rules … that’s usually when we find out they have three or four households and we have a cancellation,” said Nichole Seliga, short-term rental manager at Summit Resort Group. “When we were under the one household rule, almost over 50% of everyone we were calling was canceling.”
The restrictions are especially unforgiving for those who manage larger properties. While a two household limit is ideal for one- to two-bedroom condos, larger five- to six-bedroom homes struggle to fill reservations.
“At Summit Resort Group a lot of our inventory — around 60% — is one bedroom or two bedrooms,” Seliga said. “So it hasn’t affected us that much, but I know if you have a lot of larger units in your inventory it will affect you a lot more.”
Because of these issues, industry leaders are still urging the state to include short-term lodging in the 5 Star Business Certification Program. According to dial restrictions, the two household rule applies in all levels on the dial except for protect-our-neighbors.
“The companies and the individuals up here who rent out their larger homes, they do need some relief,” Babich said. “I can tell you we are having discussions with the county trying to find some way to make this happen.”
County officials have said that since the program has to do with business restrictions, not gatherings, they don’t have the power to allow for larger reservations.
“We know when households are together indoors without masks that is where we have a lot of virus spread,” said Public Health Director Amy Wineland at a Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Jan. 7.
Although they can’t change the gathering rule, county officials are working to make lodging restrictions equitable compared to restrictions for restaurants and other industries.
At Thursday’s meeting, County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence brought up a disparity between requirements for lodging and restaurants. Currently, the public health order requires that lodging companies confirm the identities of guests to ensure that they do not live in more than one household.
Restaurants that are not held to five star standards don’t have that requirement. Lawrence proposed that the county change the public health order to make it so the lodging companies can “inform” guests of the rules rather than “confirm” they are following them once they arrive.
“This seems very onerous on those lodging companies,” Lawrence said. “We have the opportunity that those lodging companies can educate their guests before they get here … instead of having people at a check out desk try to compare drivers licenses.”
County Manager Scott Vargo said the county could either change the wording to say “inform” rather than “confirm” or create an identity confirmation rule that would apply to all industries equally.
Ultimately, the board decided to table the issue until its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, for the review of the county’s newly elected board of commissioners.
Babich said that he and others in the lodging industry plan to go to the governor’s office to talk about how “a one-size-fits-all approach to gatherings is creating a disparate impact across our lodging industry statewide.”
“Our initial focus here is going to be to try to get some relief for our luxury and large-home market up here,” he said. “They need some help and they need some help now.”
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