Lodging companies see cancellations as they adjust to new restrictions
DILLON — Lodging companies are allowed to stay open in level red, but the industry is facing its own set of changes amid new pandemic restrictions.
While bookings around the Thanksgiving holiday were set to surpass last year’s numbers, cancellations are rampant and lodging companies are trying to get information about restrictions to guests before they arrive.
At the Breckenridge Town Council meeting Nov. 10, Breckenridge Tourism Office CEO and President Lucy Kay said October in Breckenridge saw strong booking numbers according to the DestiMetrics report, up 46% in room nights compared with 2019, and that winter booking numbers were 5% ahead of bookings at this time last year.
Mayor Eric Mamula noted in a special council meeting Thursday that lodging bookings through the end of Thanksgiving are significantly higher than last year.
Then on Friday, Summit County moved into level red, which includes a prohibition on gatherings of more than one household, even at lodging properties. As a result, the lodging industry has seen a wave of cancellations, Breckenridge Lodging Association President Toby Babich said Thursday.
Babich said cancellations were occurring even before Summit County released its amended public health order Friday. He said the local lodging industry is seeing a lot of guests, many of whom already were concerned about the pandemic, request to rebook their vacations at a later time.
“What a lot of our properties are doing is … sending out messaging to their guests, letting them know of the new public health order and what kind of impact it may have on their party in addition to sending out messaging on what to expect when they get into town,” Babich said.
With no in-person dining, Babich said the lodging industry is leaning heavily on takeout. As far as handling cancellations, Babich said it depends on the lodging company but that all options are on the table — including cancellations, rebooking and credits for future use.
At his lodging company, Breckenridge Resort Managers, Babich said the goal is to be as reasonable as possible if people are prevented from coming by a local public health order. He said he encourages guests to rebook their stays but that he will give a refund if a guest chooses to cancel.
As Thanksgiving approaches, Babich said there definitely will be people visiting despite the cancellations, which he thinks is a good thing.
“We don’t necessarily want to shut down our economy,” Babich said. “We just want to manage our capacity here as much as possible. So we are still going to see people coming. They’re still going to ski on the mountain. They’re going to eat takeout (from) our restaurants. We’re going to try to give them the best possible experience we can under the circumstances,” Babich said.
Babich noted that he believes reducing lodging capacity won’t necessarily lower the county’s case count because occupancy was high during the summer while cases were low. He also said people have a different expectation of the guest experience and know that there are restrictions.
Level red prohibits gatherings of more than one household, and the amended public health order requires short-term lodging facilities to confirm that guests staying in a unit are from the same household.
At Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, Director of Sales and Marketing Bruce Horii said he doesn’t anticipate much of an issue with the one household per unit rule because the resort rents out a lot of smaller units and studios rather than whole houses. However, he said he is a bit “dumbfounded” by how enforcement will work.
While the resort is trying to alert guests about the rule before they arrive, it could pose a problem if guests show up without receiving the messaging. Horii said one way the resort could accommodate guests who booked a unit but comprise more than one household is to offer a discount for two units.
As for occupancy, Horii said this Thanksgiving weekend has similar occupancy as last year, so the resort isn’t slammed. But without in-person dining at restaurants, Horii said it could be a guest service nightmare. The resort is trying to combat potential frustration and confusion by alerting guests to the changes before they arrive, and Beaver Run is seeing a lot of cancellations along with the rest of the industry.
“All we can do is try and maximize our communication,” Horii said.
Beaver Run also is postponing reservations for people who no longer want to come to town at this time, but Horii said the resort will give refunds to people who want to cancel, citing the public health order, such as a planned trip with multiple households.
The resort had planed to host a physically distanced Thanksgiving dinner in its conference center, but now that indoor dining service is no longer allowed, those who had signed up will be offered a to-go dinner that they can bring back to their rental units.
Horii said the majority of guests have been understanding that the resort is trying to comply with public health rules.
“We’re looking at the long term,” Horii said. “After COVID, we still want these guests to be loyal guests to us and to come back.”
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