Momentum carries into 2011 |

Momentum carries into 2011

Lodging occupancy at more than a dozen major western mountain destinations was up 8.9 percent in Dec. 2010 compared to the previous December according to the most recent Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) report. This marked the fourth consecutive month for a year-over-year increase in the participating mountain resorts and helped boost the occupancy figures to an overall 10.5 percent increase during the past six months – last July through December.

“Continued signs of strength in the economy combined with good early snow gave most of the ski and snowboard resorts a much happier holiday this year,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “Based on these positive trends from the past few months and the current pace of future reservations, the prospect of a happier New Year is considerably more promising than last year, but is certainly not a guarantee.”

Additional optimistic news emerged in the forward-looking data. As of Dec. 31, January bookings were up 5.3 percent compared to last January and remain even more positive for the next six months, up 7.6 percent for January through June with increases in five of the next six months. Average daily rate, which had dropped over the past several years, remains essentially flat (up 0.1 percent) for January to June, suggesting further discounting is not required to drive occupancy to most mountain destinations.

However, the report also noted that some economic indicators continue to be potentially problematic for both the economy and mountain travel industry. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 5.2 percent in December and the Leading Economic Indicators were up 1.1 percent, the Consumer Confidence Index dropped 3.3 percent and continues to be erratic while high unemployment remains an ongoing concern despite a slight dip in December – primarily due to fewer people looking for jobs.

“The economic metrics are brighter than they have been and the travel industry recovery continues to outpace the overall economy,” said Tom Foley, MTRiP research analyst. “Although inflation remains in check at around 1 percent, a few risks loom like the troubled housing market and the increase in the cost of raw materials like oil, steel, textiles and chemicals and those increases impact the wholesale price of these goods to retailers and ultimately consumers.”

“As the season matures and the momentum of the early season carries into the post-holiday period, we see more reasons to be optimistic about a continued recovery,” Garrison said.

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