Tourism officials describe ‘last-minute’ travel interest spike for Breckenridge ahead of holiday
BRECKENRIDGE — Breckenridge Tourism Office executives relayed that from the national and localized data and reports they are consistently assessing, it seems Breckenridge and Summit County are seeing a trend of “last-minute” searches, bookings and travel from visitors from across the country ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.
Ahead of a weekend when Summit County is seeing an apparent surge of visitation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Breckenridge Tourism Office on Thursday morning, July 2, shared their latest tourism and marketing information and data with hundreds of people via videoconference.
Bill Wishowski, the director of operations for the Breckenridge Tourism Office, pointed to data the tourism office collected from JackRabbit Systems, a tourism-focused software company that supports the travel industry. Wishowski showcased data that showed from the beginning of May through the end of June searches and referrals were up.
“And since June started, searches are up 51% and referrals are up 41%,” Wishowski said of the JackRabbit data compared to 2019.
Wishowski then showcased the June 15 occupancy report for the town of Breckenridge, which he said painted a clearer picture on how many visitors have been booking last-minute trips through June ahead of the summer, beginning with the Fourth of July weekend.
“Wednesday we had a lodging roundtable and, Fourth of July, I made a prediction that I think we would get the 1,800 room nights out of our (destination marketing) database,” Wishowski said. “That prediction might be blown out. It’s been very strong last-minute business for the Fourth of July.”
Wishowski elaborated that, on average, a “room night” consists of 3.6 people visiting the county. He also said he was looking forward to yet-to-be-released data, through June 30, that the Breckenridge Tourism Office should obtain on July 7. That data would clarify if the numbers the Breckenridge Tourism Office is looking at is reflected by increased crowds in Summit County this holiday weekend.
Compared to rival markets, Wishowski said that, in some instances, occupancy is less than competitors. But he said that may be because Breckenridge opened up later than other markets.
“Room nights compared to 2019 are starting to match up,” Wishowski said of Breckenridge lodging.
Brett Howard, the Breckenridge Tourism Office’s chief marketing officer, dove into some state-wide tourism data.
Looking at Tripadvisor and Expedia data, he said the first half of June saw a 43% increase in people searching for flights compared to May. Howard said most people were looking into one- to two-day stays, which he said likely could be because many people are looking for a first trip amid the pandemic with a shorter length of stay to “test the waters,” or it could be business travel.
He then shared app-based tracking data the tourism company obtained from the visitation intelligence company Arrivalist.
Howard said this detailed geo-location intelligence information is especially useful in a time like this. Howard singled out how Arrivalist quantifies how many people go in and out of a state. He said Colorado is currently performing better than most other states in terms of people driving 250 or more miles into the state. He said that could be a sign that people do not currently want to fly to vacation.
“We are seeing this increase week over week,” Howard said. “Last week, it was almost an 8% increase. And 25% (of people) driving into the state were from a distance over 250 miles.”
Assessing data taken from keyword search trends in Google, Howard said things are slowly moving back in a good area for Breckenridge in terms of Airbnb.
“There was a pretty significant drop during COVID,” he said. “It’s been a slow and steady increase back and, in some instances, beating year-over-year in June. Which has put us at a 16% down year-over-year, which is fairly impressive considering where we were — anywhere from 60%, 70%, 80% percent (decrease), in some instances.”
“What this is showing us is people are showing intent to travel and at least researching,” Howard added.
Howard then said, along with the data, the number one priority for the tourism office continues to be safety. With that in mind, the tourism office has been using a Johns Hopkins daily map to dive into county-and city-level metrics in terms of novel coronavirus spikes.
“It just doesn’t seem appropriate to market into an area that is seeing these high increases, hospitalizations and inviting them into the community,” Howard said.
The tourism office’s chief executive officer, Lucy Kay, assessed more national trends. She said national data signaled a dip in tourism confidence and intent to travel due to COVID-19 flare-ups across the nation, despite June’s improvement for Breckenridge.
Kay added that a number of the data sources the tourism office is looking at say people are wanting to take road trips over air travel. She added what’s interesting in the road trips is that people are willing to drive much further than in the past.
Pointing to Longwoods International tourism data, Kay said a May survey signaled that people are most interested in at first visiting friends and family amid the pandemic — 52% of travelers say that their first trip that they are going to take when they come out of COVID is to friends and family domestically.
“And 75% of travelers are saying they still intend to travel,” Kay said. “Only 8% say they are not going to travel.”
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