The gauge on tourism

Barometer shows a significant drop in visitors for the weekend

Tom Ross

— Even with blue skies and a 14-inch injection of fresh snow at mid-week, resort traffic this weekend could be off a hefty 16 percent.

But there is encouraging news on the near horizon.

The lodging barometer produced by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates there will be about 8,800 people in town tonight compared to 10,544 the same Saturday night a year ago.

Area resort properties are forecasted to be about 60 percent full and downtown lodging is taking the brunt of the hit again this weekend.

Downtown properties are projected to be just 31 percent full compared to 75 percent occupancy on Jan. 27, 2001. The Chamber’s lodging barometer is not intended to be a scientific survey, but an informal poll of representative properties in the different categories of lodging.

Downtown innkeepers and the rest of the resort community should be a happier bunch Feb. 2, when the barometer forecasts that tourism is on pace to exceed the corresponding Saturday in 2001.

The barometer currently forecasts 11,063 tourists here Feb. 2.

“It is only over the past two weeks that we’ve noticed Feb. 1-2 has shaped up,” ski area Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said. “It’s very encouraging.”

Wirth said data he has reviewed from Steamboat Central Reservations and airline reservations into Yampa Valley Regional Airport correlate with the lodging barometer.

“That Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (Jan. 30-31, Feb. 1) show strong inbound airline bookings, which rolls up to helping Feb. 2,” Wirth said.

Wirth also believes a pair of recent snowstorms, each of which dumped 14 inches of fresh powder, have helped Steamboat compete against its peers in the Colorado destination resort market.

“We’re the undisputed conditions leader among Colorado destination resorts,” Wirth said. “We’re the only resort of magnitude with a 54-inch base.”

Wirth said the ski area has increased its print and electronic media advertising on the Front Range and skiers are responding to the snow conditions and package rates.

“There’s no question we’ve gained back some of the Front Range market share we lost last year,” Wirth said.

As pleased as he is to be making renewed inroads into the Colorado market, Wirth cautioned that there’s still work to be done in the destination skier markets outside the state.

“Central Reservations is showing we’re really starting to close the gap,” Wirth said. “But we still have moderate skier visits at midweek.”

Vacationing skiers from distant states are the visitors who prop up the middle of the week and their spending habits are at the heart of the winter season, he explained.

This coming Wednesday, is off close to 500 visitors compared to last year, based on the lodging barometer. About 7,800 vacationers will be in town.

Early reservation forecasts for Feb. 2 show mountain condos are already a point ahead of last year, with a 79 percent occupancy rate. Mountain hotels are forecast to be 81 percent full, down a few points from last year. However, there’s still time for those numbers to grow. Wirth said even destination skiers are making close-in reservations this year.

Resort wide, the barometer is currently projecting Steamboat lodging properties will be 74 percent full on Feb. 2.

Steamboat’s bed base counts18,306 pillows. That number has not changed since last year.

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