Summer business looking up for mountain towns
Lodging reservations for mountain destinations are continuing a strong upward pattern, up 16.2 percent for the month of June and 17.7 percent for the next six months compared to the same time last year, according to information from the Mountain Travel Research Program.
According to the data, five of the next six months are posting occupancy increases. It also revealed that actual occupancy across all the destinations for the month of May, typically a “soft” month, was up 11.7 percent.
MTRiP, a lodging performance benchmarking organization, compiles its data from property management companies in 16 mountain destination communities across Colorado, Utah, California and Oregon. The latest information is as of May 31.
“Strong advanced reservation activity is looking very solid in many destinations, and special events occurring in early summer are already proving their value as both attraction and momentum builder at destinations,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “Destinations that have established lively summer calendars are attracting guests and very solid early bookings.”
In Breckenridge, May’s occupancy was actually down 9.4 percent compared to last year. However, people seem to have been busy planning ahead – booking numbers for last month were up 59 percent compared to May 2011. June occupancy is pacing up – 49 percent more compared to June 2011 – and July is as well, 17 percent, according to MTRiP’s numbers.
While there was a modest business increase over the Kingdom Days weekend, the impact of high temperatures and low gas prices are keeping the Breckenridge lodging industry hopeful for a strong summer, according to Toby Babich, Breckenridge Resort Managers president.
“The kickoff to summer 2012, Kingdom Days, brought with it a hopeful sign of another record-breaking summer for Breckenridge in terms of early booking patterns and heat-weary visitors,” he said. “Summer 2011 recorded the largest July and August on record relative to lodging tax collections, and with an uptick in early summer booking pace, and the early temperatures across our prime markets, we hope to continue that trend into 2012.”
Though the Breckenridge lodging industry is still climbing past 2006 tax revenue numbers, and has yet to come close to 2007, “growth of the summer season bodes well for our entire destination to improve our position as a year-round resort,” Babich said.
MTRiP’s report also acknowledged that a variety of economic factors could still influence summer visits. Positive indicators as of May 31 included a modest decrease in the Consumer Price Index and sharp decrease in the price of crude oil. The lower CPI is the first decline in the past five months and is primarily the result of the lower crude oil prices that will provide relief at both the pump and transportation costs for goods with reduced prices reaching consumers.
Other indicators were less rosy with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 6.2 percent in May, an increase in the Unemployment Rate from 8.1 to 8.2 percent for the first increase since November 2011 and a sharp decline in the Consumer Confidence Index – the third consecutive month of declines. Additionally, the Travel Price Index increased for the fourth consecutive month, up 0.8 percent.
“With an early and warm end to the winter 2011-12 season, we’ve been speculating which way advance bookings for summer might go, and it seems those devotees of mountain recreation who love the outdoor lifestyle are remaining loyal to mountain destinations,” said Tom Foley, operations director for MTRiP. “In most of the destinations that we are tracking, the latest rumbles in the recovering economy don’t seem to be deterring this summer’s visitors in the least.”
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