‘Busy, not bulging’ in Aspen for holidays | AspenTimes.com

‘Busy, not bulging’ in Aspen for holidays

ASPEN ” The Aspen lodging industry has added business in the last two weeks, but not enough to produce the typical holiday crowds.

A report released Tuesday shows occupancy for Aspen’s lodging industry is 63 percent this week, compared to 87 percent for the same week last year.

Next week, Aspen’s occupancy will climb to 73 percent, compared to 90 percent last winter, the report shows. This year’s occupancy levels were based on reservations made as of Dec. 15.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations agency, said the peak period will be Dec. 27 through New Year’s Day. Current reservations would produce occupancy of 80 percent, and he believes last-minute travelers could boost that figure to as high as 85 percent. Last season’s holiday occupancy peaked at about 95 percent.

“The bottom line is it’s going to be busy in town. It’s just not going to be bulging at the seams,” Tomcich said.

Some properties in prime locations will be full or close to it during the holidays. The North of Nell Condominiums is looking at a solid holiday period, said general manager Joe Raczak.

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Aspen could be busier than the occupancy reports reflect because many second-home owners will use their units since they couldn’t rent them out, Tomcich said. In addition, he noted Aspen and Snowmass Village have slightly more rooms this year than last year with the opening of the Limelight Lodge and properties at Base Village. So the same occupancy levels would produce more people this year.

The travelers who do come to Aspen and Snowmass will likely feel spoiled with excellent snow conditions and lighter than usual crowds to fight at restaurants, bars and shops. The perfect scenario, Tomcich said, is that holiday travelers will experience an “epic” vacation, then go home and tell their friends and spur more travel.

While Aspen’s numbers are down, Snowmass Village’s prospects are dismal. Occupancy is only 48 percent this week, compared to 74 percent last year.

Current reservations indicate a 59 percent occupancy next week, compared to 84 percent last year.

The reports are based on surveys of numerous properties in Aspen and Snowmass. They are produced for the two towns’ lodging industries, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, town of Snowmass Village and Aspen Skiing Co. to help gauge business levels.

David Perry, Skico senior vice president, mountain division, said he is disappointed the occupancy levels aren’t higher, but he is pleased with them “considering the circumstances.” He noted that there has been “body blow after body blow” to the economy since September.

Aspen will fare better than most travel destinations ” be they ski areas, cruises or whatever else ” during the holidays, Perry predicted.

The biggest day on the slopes is expected to be between Saturday, Dec. 27, and Tuesday, Dec. 30, depending on the weather, Perry said.

Tomcich said travelers are still seeking bargains, so late shoppers could boost the numbers a bit. The occupancy level for this week increased from 59 percent to 63 percent in Aspen between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.

“It’s certainly not going to be dead,” Tomcich said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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