Mountain West sets winter lodging record despite consumer pushback against rising rates
FRISCO — Tourists might be pushing back against rising room prices, but that hasn’t stopped western mountain destination lodging properties from breaking records this winter.
In its latest DestiMetrics’ monthly market briefing, Inntopia is reporting participating western mountain destinations across six states have produced all-time records for occupancy, average daily rate and revenue with the final results for winter 2018-19 now in.
Inntopia is a Denver-based market research firm that tracks these figures at participating mountain resort destinations, including multiple properties operating in Summit County. The winter season covers November through April, with the final month seeing only a slight increase. However, as of April 30, actual occupancy was up 5.6% compared with the previous season while the average daily rate was up a scant 0.7% and revenue posted a 6.5% gain. The firm has attributed this winter’s surge to the season’s abundant snowfall.
“The mountain travel industry has much to cheer about this winter as most destinations had an excellent season,” Inntopia’s senior vice president of business operations and analytics Tom Foley said in a prepared statement. “The season started out a bit tentatively due to the ‘snow hangover’ from the previous season and some awkward timing of school holidays. But many properties adapted by lowering December rates to attract visitors, and once excellent slope conditions were clearly established, the season just moved from strength to strength.”
Last year, the firm saw the northern Rockies benefit from dry spells in the far West and southern Rockies, Foley explained over the phone. With more even snowfall across the U.S., he said the northern Rockies were forecast to return some of last year’s market share to other areas. That didn’t quite materialize, as gains were realized across the Northern Hemisphere.
“This was really a year when everybody won,” Foley said.
Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge was one of the lodging properties that won big pretty much all season long.
Beaver Run is one of the properties in Summit County that regularly reports its occupancy statistics, average daily rate and revenue to the Denver-based firm that collects and tracks this data. Speaking only about Beaver Run’s season, director of sales and marketing Bruce Horii recalled that November — which brought more than 80 inches of snow to Breckenridge Ski Resort, the second highest snowfall recorded for the month in the past 20 years — really got this year off to a fast start. The heavy traffic continued throughout the holiday season, which is fairly typical for Summit County, and into late January and February.
Thinking a later-than-usual Easter holiday might stifle late-season traffic, Horii said Beaver Run was cautious about expecting too much from March and April this year. However, the season’s strong start and midseason momentum apparently spilled into spring, as Horii said those two months exceeded all expectations and capped off an exceptional winter for the resort.
“Overall, the strength of the season was very good and probably better than we had predicted given the time frame for Easter,” he said. “Anecdotally, it means that if we have good snow, it kind of trumps a lot of other factors.”
The towns of Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon and Frisco all reported significant month-over-month gains in lodging sales tax receipts throughout the winter.
In terms of occupancy rates, Foley said, Mountain West destinations have broken records two of the past three winters with this year surpassing the previous record from winter 2016-17.
Looking at the average daily rate, he said, it has been steadily increasing every year since winter 2009-10 and broken records every winter since 2013-14.
The latest record-breaking figure continues “a very long upward trajectory,” Foley said, but the growth has slowed dramatically this year, which left him to call it “a hard-achieved record.”
Even with a booming national economy and the winter’s great snowfall, he said, slowing growth in average daily rate indicates there may be some consumer pushback against the rising room prices.
“Anecdotally, we know that’s true, and we can see the data that supports that,” he said.
Still, western mountain destinations did “a nice job finding the sweet spot” with pricing and, in doing so, achieved record revenue driven more by occupancy than average daily rate, Foley said.
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