Winter occupancy rates down only slightly in Breckenridge compared to pre-pandemic levels

Looking ahead, officials are expecting a strong summer tourism season

Skiers and snowboarders head to the Colorado SuperChair at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort on Wednesday, May 12. The Breckenridge Tourism Office reported that occupancy rates for the winter season were down slightly compared with the 2018-19 season.
Photo by Ashley Low / Ashley Low Photography

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the report is produced by DestiMetrics and to clarify that April is traditionally considered the end of ski season.

The Breckenridge Tourism Office recently shared a report with its local lodging occupancy rates for the winter season and a forecast for what the upcoming summer might look like. Though last season’s numbers are still down slightly compared with pre-pandemic numbers, officials are optimistic the industry will reel in a strong summer.

Data is gathered from participating Breckenridge lodging properties, which report lodging data to DestiMetrics, a third party that gathers information for the destination leisure industry. Participating properties include Peak Property Management, Grand Lodge on Peak 7, Beaver Run Resort and more. In total, the latest report features 21 properties, or about 56% of the town’s licensed units.

This season’s numbers were compared to the 2018-19 winter season. Austyn Dineen, public relations officer for the Breckenridge Tourism Office, said that is because the 2019-20 season ended early and doesn’t paint an accurate picture.

“Reporting year over year in some circumstances isn’t apples to apples with COVID,” she wrote in an email. “That’s why you see 2019 (versus) 2021 in some areas.”

This season didn’t perform quite as well as the season just before the pandemic, but the numbers show that it isn’t necessarily all attributed to the virus.

For example, this season had 13% more room nights available than during the 2018-19 season. The occupancy rate was also slightly down: This season’s rate was 51.3% versus 56.9% two seasons ago.

The decline isn’t surprising, according to Toby Babich, president of Breckenridge Resort Managers.

“Overall, the end of the season data does not contain very many surprises, with our peaks and valleys being lower compared to last year,” Babich said. “But overall, the numbers are not different by extreme amounts year over year. As we navigated this pandemic winter, everybody — I believe — expected some sort of decline in the occupancy and overall revenue, but I think we’re all pleasantly surprised that the decline was very mild.”

The revenue per available room, which Dineen said is used to measure hotel performance, was also slightly down. Last season, it was $172 while two years ago it was $178.

The good news is that the industry appears to be making a rebound: This season booked 3% more room nights and the average daily rate increased to $335 up from $315.

April, which historically has been considered the last month of the winter season, was an especially high-performing month for the industry: According to the report’s notes, the occupancy rate, which is the proportion of accommodations occupied, closed at 39.1%, which was the highest April occupancy percentage in 11 years. During April, the average daily rate was $213.

Heading into summer, the town’s occupancy rates are slightly down at 11.7%. In 2019, the report said the town’s occupancy rate was at 14.8%. Bill Wishowski, director of operations for the tourism office, wrote the report’s notes and stated that this was due to a decline of group bookings.

“The biggest difference is groups in 2019 (versus) virtually no groups in 2021,” Wishowski wrote. “The second variable is 4.5% more available units in 2021. Good news is, we are seeing more interest for group business every week.”

Wishowski wrote that the town is showing a strong beginning to the summer during Memorial Day weekend and that the week of June 12-19 “continues to have as much on the books as the weeks sandwiching” July 4.

“As we look forward at summer, we continue to see a significant increase in demand, and this year the demand picked up very early versus summer of 2020 due to more confidence and availability of travel options,” Babich noted.

By this time of the year, Wishowski wrote that the town usually has 40% of summer nights on the books. This year, it has 30% or less.

July, and especially July 4, has some of the highest occupied nights of the summer season. July 4 alone has 7% more room nights on the books in 2021 versus 2019, and Wishowski wrote that occupancy levels continue to remain consistent for the week before and after the holiday.

The report’s notes concluded with a brief summary of travel predictions made by Destination Analysts, a tourism market research firm. The summary determined that more Americans are willing to travel, listen to marketing messages and are more open to group and conference meeting environments.

It also reported that outdoor activity ranks high on priorities and that the consumer confidence index is up more than 11% since March.

Skiers mill around the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort on Wednesday, May 12. The Breckenridge Tourism Office reported that occupancy rates for this past winter season were down slightly compared with the 2018-19 season.
Photo by Ashley Low / Ashley Low Photography

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