Many Summit County lodging companies offering credits rather than refunds in order to maintain financial stability amid shutdown
DILLON — As Summit County residents are urged to “minimize their contact with other people” and visitors are asked to return home, local lodging facilities are rapidly closing down.
Following the countywide business shutdown that was ordered Monday night, nonpermanent residents are expected to leave by noon Thursday. The shutdown of hotels, timeshares and short-term rental properties is happening quickly, and owners are scrambling to get the word out and revise their cancellation policies.
Jonathan Miller, a visitor from Kansas City, Missouri, said he booked a rental property through Summit Mountain Rentals and asked last week about the cancellation policy. He said he originally was told he could not cancel but later was offered a credit for next season. Miller and his family weren’t sure they would be able to use the credit, so they decided to come to Summit County and checked in Sunday. Now, they’re headed home early and were given a credit for the days they did not stay.
A visitor from Longmont, Christopher DeMary, booked a rental property with TurnKey Rentals. He said he also was given a credit rather than a refund.
Summit Mountain Rentals owners Mark and Mary Waldman said they have canceled more than 200 reservations as of Monday and have 800 to go through April 30.
Mary Waldman said the company will allow guests to rebook through the end of next winter. She noted that most guests have been accepting of this policy.
“I find it disheartening that we’re trying to be as generous as we can, but people have already paid for their reservation,” said Mark Waldman, who was clearly upset by the situation. “If we cannot carry that reservation forward, we would have every one of my staff unemployed today. March has always been the moneymaker. This is very painful, especially for those small businesses like us. We have to hold onto as much income as possible.”
Breckenridge Lodging Association President Toby Babich recapped the consensus among leaders in the lodging community, who met by phone Monday.
“The main focus, of course, is on public safety,” Babich said. “This scenario changes from day to day. We’re constantly feeling like we’re playing catch-up trying to do the right thing. For anyone that’s here now, we’re asking them to go to their primary residence.”
Babich said the Thursday deadline gives people time to leave to mitigate potential travel issues.
“We want to be sensitive to health and safety but also the ability of people to depart Summit County,” Babich said.
He added that closing lodging facilities through April 6 will give everyone time to review the situation. While not every lodging facility in town is a member of the Breckenridge Lodging Association, Babich said he and other members hope to lead by example.
As for complaints from guests about difficulties with cancellations and refunds, Babich said the situation has changed rapidly and that he hopes these issues will be resolved soon.
“I think people really need to understand that it’s been a confusing time for us in the lodging community, as well,” Babich said. “I think we’re all trying to do the best we can with the facts we have at hand, but we are looking at a different scenario than we were looking at five days ago. I don’t think anyone in this business is interested in simply keeping people’s money with no service whatsoever. Looking forward, I think you’re going to see that reason is going to prevail.”
Babich pointed out that although March is spring break, it is nearing the end of ski season and subsequently tourism season. Babich said his business, Breckenridge Resort Managers, is likely to lose 5% to 7% of its net revenue, which will not be detrimental.
Breckenridge Grand Vacations, one of the largest lodging companies in Breckenridge, sent an email Sunday to on-property guests:
“Based on (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) recommendations and likely action from the Town of Breckenridge, the leadership team at Breckenridge Grand Vacations feels that your voluntary departure from our properties at your earliest possible convenience is your best possible course of action and is strongly encouraged.”
CEO Mike Dudick said guests have been compliant with the request and that he hopes to have properties vacant by Wednesday. However, the company is taking reservations for stays well into the future. Dudick said the company hasn’t addressed refunds for cancellations at this time.
“We need to understand what the directives are of the town and county government,” Dudick said. “We need to wait to understand those directives before we form a policy. We’re just hoping to do the right thing.”
During the closure, Breckenridge Grand Vacations will continue to pay all employees for the foreseeable future and will reevaluate on a weekly basis.
As far as short-term rentals, properties run through Airbnb and VRBO make up a significant amount of units in the county. The two companies have updated their policies regarding cancellations and refunds.
Airbnb has stated on its website that reservations made on or before March 14 with check-in dates through April 14 can be canceled by guests before check-in for a full refund. Hosts can cancel without charge or status impact.
VRBO spokesman Adam Pedowitz wrote in an email that the company’s current policy allows guests who made a reservation on or before March 14 with check-in dates through April 16 to receive a full credit toward a future booking at the same home. Guests will have until Oct. 1, 2020, to use the credit and rebook their reservation, which must have a check-in date on or before April 1, 2021.
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