Short-term rental industry in Summit County trends above rest of the country

At the Summit Chamber's Ski Area COO Summit, a company that tracks short-term rental data said bookings appear to be strong headed into the winter

Tripp Fay/For Summit Daily News
Downtown Breckenridge is pictured Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. Summit County's short-term rental industry has been trending above rest of the country, according to a presentation at this year's Ski Area COO Summit held in Breckenridge, which is considered a tourism powerhouse in the region.
Tripp Fay/For Summit Daily News

While short-term rental bookings have declined slightly across the U.S. so far in 2023, Summit County continues to outperform the nation overall, according to Melanie Brown, the executive director of data insights at Key Data.

Key Data tracks the short-term rental industry across the globe, including in Summit County, where the company works with about 40 property managers representing 8,000 short-term rentals, Brown said Friday, Oct. 13, at the Ski Area COO Summit in Breckenridge.

“2021 and 2022 were kind of banner years for the U.S. short-term rental segment overall. We saw a lot of increased supply. So everybody decided short-term rentals were a great way to make money,” Brown said. “We’re seeing a little bit of oversupply in 2023. So, there are too many rentals and not enough guests in a lot of cases. So, occupancy is coming down for the U.S. overall.”

The return of international travel after the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to that nationwide trend as well, Brown said. While Phoenix is an example of a market where there is no restraint on the short-term rentals, leading to an oversupply that correlates with a decline in average property performance, regulation of short-term rentals “has protected Summit County vacation rentals a little more than other destinations,” she said.

Melanie Brown, the executive director of data insights at Key Data, speaks at the Summit Chambers Ski Area COO Summit on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.
Ryan Spencer/Summit Daily News

Compared to other western ski markets, Summit County is “middle of the road” for bookings so far this year, Brown said. Winter vacation rental occupancy is outpacing last year, up 7% year over year, in Summit County, while Aspen and Lake Tahoe areas have seen declines of 16% and 9% year over year, respectively, she said.

Still, bookings so far this year are not up as much as they have been in Jackson Hole, where they’re up 11%, Steamboat Springs, where they’re up 13%, or Telluride, where they’re up 21%, according to year over year reports from Key Data.

The average price of a short-term rental in Summit County has dropped slightly from last year. Last year, the average daily rate for those who booked short-term rentals in the county was $559, while this year so far it sits at $537, Brown said.

Holiday bookings in Summit County are up significantly from this time last year, Brown noted. Short-term rental occupancy for Thanksgiving is up 16% over last year in the county, Christmas and New Years are up about 26% from last year and spring break numbers have nearly doubled, she said.

“I think that spring break growth is really encouraging,” Brown said. 

Typically people book their ski vacation less than two months in advance, Brown said. More expensive stays tend to be booked earlier while cheaper stays tend to be booked closer to the date of the trip, she said.

“We’re kind of seeing people diverge on either end of that spectrum. Either they’re booking their trip really far in advance or really close to arrival,” Brown said. “So I think that spring break performance is showing that there is some confidence around going ahead and getting those March trips booked.”

The average stay length in Summit County for the 2023-24 winter season is on a similar pace as last year. But based on the overall national trend and more price-conscious travelers, Brown said that trend is expected to drop off a little bit as the county heads into the winter.

Average stay length is really important because even a small 10% decline in the amount of nights stayed by a visitor requires 10% more guests to fill that gap, Brown said, and the amount each visitor spends while in Summit County also drops.

“Keep an eye on that if that’s relevant to you, and try to think of ways you can kind of encourage people to spend a little longer and lengthen that stay a little bit,” Brown said. “Again, it’s related to that price-conscious traveler.” 

Ski resorts, for example, might want to encourage people to purchase a three-day lift ticket, rather than a two-day ticket, Brown said. She noted that for those price-conscious travelers, reducing one day of a trip is an easy way to reduce costs.

The short-term rental market showed strong performance in Summit County this summer and hopefully that will continue into the winter, Brown said. Summer occupancy was up 1% this year compared to 2022 she said.

“Summit County is doing better than the U.S. overall,” Brown said. “Local data is really powerful because a lot of trends and narratives that people are talking about with short-term rentals and travelers and tourism in the U.S. overall, they don’t necessarily apply to Colorado right now.”

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