Our view: Un-Convention-al | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Un-Convention-al

At issue

The implications for the local economy of the Sheraton Steamboat’s shift from hosting conventions

Our view

Local officials have work to do in light of this significant change, and hotel ownership should be more forthcoming.

The news that the Sheraton Steamboat Resort has been advising customers that, after the end of ski season 2016/2017, it will exit the convention business in favor of devoting itself to the timeshare business, suggests to us there is much to learn. The community needs to anticipate the fallout that will result from losing the largest convention facility in our market.

At issue

The implications for the local economy of the Sheraton Steamboat’s shift from hosting conventions

We understand there is likely nothing the community can do to avert this change.

We only wish Starwood and the timeshare operator that licensed the Sheraton brand were more transparent. The changes at the Sheraton have the potential to affect the local economy, and the community deserves direct communication about what that entails.

Among the things we do know is that, on May 12, a company called Interval Leisure Group acquired Vistana Signature Experiences from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. And Vistana has an exclusive 80-year global license agreement with Starwood for the use of the Westin and Sheraton brands in vacation ownership.

We have heard the rationale before: Vacation ownership operators that sell points, allowing their “owners” to access resorts all over the world, tend to enjoy higher occupancy rates at their properties. If it’s accurate, that would seem to be a fit with winter resorts such as Steamboat, which become very quiet in the shoulder seasons.

And we are tentatively optimistic that exposing Steamboat to an international interval vacation company could spread Steamboat’s brand to new markets. But, in order to be prepared to meet the expectations of a new kind of resort visitor and attract the business mix that suits them, we need to know more. The hotel’s operators can, and should, support those preparations.

We believe the conference business at the Sheraton Steamboat, sometimes working in tandem with the Steamboat Grand to host larger groups, has been valuable to our economy. We would note that favorable impressions of Steamboat formed by our conventioneers can convert to a family vacation at another date.

However, the issues related to change at the Sheraton go beyond adapting to a new customer to include the implications for the tax revenues that have been generated by the largest convention space in our market.

Those issues potentially include the question of whether short-term rental units being sold as timeshares are subject to paying lodging and accommodation taxes that support recreational amenities and commercial airline service here.

There is also the possibility that the corporate entity in control of the Sheraton Steamboat might seek to have the property treated as a “condo-hotel,” which could remove it from the higher property tax classification of a commercial property.

As well, there are potential implications for the property and sales tax revenues collected by the Urban Renewal Authority to invest in improvements to public infrastructure at the base of the ski area.

Those improvements have certainly benefited the Sheraton Steamboat. Will a Sheraton timeshare continue to support them?

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