Summer lodging occupancy outpaces pre-pandemic levels

Local lodging industry reports that the summer season has kicked off with a strong start

Visitors and residents walk along Main Street in Breckenridge on Friday, July 2, 2021. So far this season, local lodging companies and organizations are reporting strong occupancy numbers and are optimistic for the rest of the summer.
Photo by Tripp Fay

This time last year looked very different. Fourth of July parades were canceled, social distancing and masks were in full effect and some towns went as far as not planning any celebrations at all.

The limited celebrations and travel restrictions made for an unconventional summer in Summit County, but this year paints a very different picture as about 74% of Summit County’s population is fully vaccinated and 82% have received at least one dose, according to Summit County’s website.

The reopening of the community earlier this spring gave the local lodging industry more time to prepare for the hordes of visitors expected this summer, Toby Babich, president of the Breckenridge Lodging Association reported.

“We are seeing that we’re up and of course, we got out of the gate this year much differently than we did last year,” Babich said. “If you recall last year, it wasn’t until June 1 that we knew we were actually going to open up for the summer, so we’ve had a good head start going into summer, and it’s translating into better numbers for us over last year and even over 2019.”

Short-term lodging has repeatedly shown some of the strongest sales tax collection numbers too, evidencing a strong market. In the town of Breckenridge’s April report, short-term lodging was up nearly 46% for that month compared to 2020. In Silverthorne’s report for the same month, lodging was up 1,783% compared to 2020; in Dillon, lodging was up 30%; and in Frisco, the lodging tax was up 506% compared to April 2020.

Austyn Dineen, Breckenridge Tourism Office’s public relations director, said Inntopia’s June 15 Destimetrics’ report showed occupancy in Breckenridge at about 55% for the Fourth of July weekend. At this time last year, occupancy through the Fourth of July weekend was 33%, but ended up being 66% when it was all said and done. It ended up at 78% for the holiday weekend in 2019.

Babich said he attributes this year’s outpacing trends to the lack of travel in the last year and a half.

“We’re just seeing an increase across the board,” Babich said. “If I had to guess what that was due to, someone termed it ‘revenge travel.’ I think people were — and have been — so eager to get out and travel and plan ahead and take a vacation that they really wanted. We’re just seeing them come out full force this year.”

This eagerness is evident in booking patterns. Babich, who owns Breckenridge Resort Managers, said he’s seeing visitors book farther out as opposed to last-minute.

“We’ve gone from a very last-minute pattern to more of an advanced booking pattern this year where instead of people booking within 30 days, they’re booking 60 and 90 days ahead of time for this summer and from a business standpoint, it’s a really good position to be in because we can predict things a lot more closely,” Babich said.

Bruce Knoepfel, owner of Frisco Inn on Galena, echoed these sentiments.

“If anything, they are booking a little bit earlier than in the past and I would say that’s the trend,” Knoepfel said.

Knoepfel said his inn is usually at 100% occupancy, but that his rate is slightly down this year, something he attributes to the lack of fireworks planned for Fourth of July celebrations.

On the other hand, Babich said he believes the fact that events are in full swing again is only boosting travel.

“They help, they accentuate people’s vacations to the point where it makes them more excited about being here, and this Fourth of July is a great example,” Babich said. “It’s something that we weren’t able to experience last year, which is our normal parade and events and festivities during the day, and it’s great animation for our guests to get them more excited and energized to come up here and experience everything that we have to offer.”

Paul Knapp, general manager of the Quality Inn and Suites in Silverthorne, said he’s seeing the same thing. Knapp reported that events and celebrations only add to the already-busy summer season. Knapp said both revenue and occupancy are up compared to the last couple years.

“I see it doing wonderful business for our whole community, as well as our hotels specifically,” Knapp said.

Looking ahead, Dineen said she’s hopeful about the new activity for the lodging industry, especially as early fall begins to reel in new business.

“Group business is starting to pick up, which is great news for early fall,” Dineen said. “You start to see a lot of group business fill that midweek time frame.”

Visitors and residents walk along Main Street in Breckenridge on Friday, July 2, 2021. So far this season, local lodging companies and organizations are reporting strong occupancy numbers and are optimistic for the rest of the summer.
Photo by Tripp Fay

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