Weekend lodging could match ’09 occupancy rates | SteamboatToday.com

Weekend lodging could match ’09 occupancy rates

— A healthy spike in occupancy rates in downtown lodging properties and mountain hotels is expected to help this weekend’s tourism match last year’s figures, according to the lodging barometer produced by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Steamboat lodging properties are expected to be 70 percent full Saturday night with 12,146 guests in town. Mountain hotels are expected to increase 10 percent compared to last year with 74 percent occupancy, and downtown properties are forecast to increase 8 percentage points to 71 percent occupancy. However, Steamboat’s biggest bed base, condominiums at the mountain, are expected to be off 4 percentage points to 69 percent full.

This weekend’s tourism forecast comes against the backdrop of qualified optimism reflected in the ski season halftime report released by the Mountain Travel Research Program.

The nation’s major resorts continued to lag slightly behind last year’s traffic as of Jan. 31, the MTRiP report stated, but things are moving in the right direction.

Actual winter occupancy from November through April decreased 1 percent from the winter of 2008-09, but that number compares favorably with Dec. 31, when the same figure stood at 3 percent off, according to MTRiP.

The most positive trend showed that reservations taken during January for the next six months increased 9.5 percent compared with January 2009. MTRiP called that the strongest pace seen in the past three months.

“When comparing this year to previous years, our analysis showed that as of Jan. 31, approximately 40 percent of winter guests have already come and gone, 40 percent have made their reservations, but the final 20 percent is still up in the air,” MTRiP Director Ralf Garrison said in a news release. “So, it is a bit like halftime at the recent Super Bowl, where second-half strategies can determine the outcome of the game and the season.”

Steamboat managed to launch a successful two-minute drill during the recently completed Presidents Day holiday weekend, outperforming the same weekend in 2009 by a handful of guests in spite of having to work its way through some airport delays in the Yampa Valley and in cities including Atlanta. A couple of flights from New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Dallas were canceled before they took off.

Still, Steamboat hosted 15,443 visitors Feb. 13, an increase from 15,380 in 2009.

Almost 870 people made plans to visit Steamboat after the lodging barometer was issued the preceding Wednesday.

Mountain condos were 86 percent full Saturday night, and downtown was rockin’ with 97 percent occupancy. U.S. Highway 40 hotels and motels were full.

Janet Fischer, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. airline program director, said it’s difficult to know how many of the travelers on the Dallas and LaGuardia flights were able to re-book after their flights were canceled Friday. The American Airlines flight from Dallas was canceled because of a snowstorm in Texas, Fischer said.

Delta’s scheduled 183-passenger Boeing 757 headed to Steamboat from New York was canceled because of reported crew issues as the airline worked to redistribute its aircraft and flight crews after another snowy period on the Eastern Seaboard.

“One of the biggest challenges for us when it’s a holiday is that everything is already full and it’s harder to re-book passengers,” Fischer said. “I can always find out what happened to people leaving Steamboat, but I can only get anecdotal information about flight cancellations headed to Steamboat.”

The Feb. 11 flight made it to Steamboat after 7 p.m., but it could not return to Dallas because of the storm. It remained on the apron at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden overnight and was able to pick up Friday’s returning passengers and make it to Dallas.

Friday also was a difficult day for arrivals at YVRA. Four flights due in around midday were diverted to other airports, three to Denver and one to Grand Junction.

“Between 4 and 5:30, they all got in,” Fischer said. “That was fortunate.”

The seasonal forecast produced by the Chamber and Ski Corp. predicts that Steamboat’s tourism may stay on par with last year until the third weekend in March, when it will begin to lag behind 2009 until reaching a final ski season peak March 22 to 28. Spring skiing in Steamboat is expected to hold on tight and outperform 2009 figures through the first two weekends in April, even as tourism inevitably winds down.

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