Study: Aspen lodges charged more, served more in 2015 | AspenTimes.com

Study: Aspen lodges charged more, served more in 2015

Chip Dipaula and Bud Duckett check into the Hotel Aspen on Tuesday.

Aspen lodges posted a 63.2 percent occupancy rate in 2015, tops among Colorado ski towns for the year, while the lodges' average daily rate of $413.26 was the state's most expensive.

The data, released earlier this week by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, indicate Aspen doesn't appear to have a problem filling rooms despite the loftiest rates in the state.

"Aspen has a certain image and it has a certain attraction that people will flock to," said Robert Benton of Robert S. Benton & Associates Inc., a Denver-based company that consults the hospitality industry. Benton's firm, along with W.R. Hopping & Co. and the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, gathered data for the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report, which is issued monthly.

The most recent report summed up all of 2015.

Aspen's average daily rate of $413.26 marked an increase of $26.98, or 7 percent, over the average daily rate of $386.28 in 2014, also the highest in the state.

Aspen had the highest revenue per available room — an industry metric that combines occupancy and rates — at $261.38 per night, a 13.6 percent increase over $230.04 in 2014.

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Aspen's average daily room rates in December, buoyed by the holidays, was $660.13. No other cities or towns in Colorado eclipsed the $520 mark last month, while Vail had the second-highest average daily room rate — $518.57. Telluride was third at $474.57.

Aspen's 65.2 percent occupancy rate last month — compared with 59.6 percent in December 2014 — was only bettered by Breckenridge, which was 69.8 percent full, the report says.

Eleven Aspen lodges, with a total of 1,050 rooms, participated in the survey, Benton said. He declined to identify them, but said the same group of lodges have consistently responded to the survey in past years.

The city's most recent sales tax report, issued earlier this month, also showed an uptick in the hospitality industry through the first 11 months of 2014. Sales for January through November totaled $157 million, up 8 percent over the same period in 2014.

The politics of lodging

The November elections in Aspen included the electorate deciding on a proposal for a lodge that had been touted as affordable — at $200 to $250 a night. The 15,000-square-foot, 37-unit Base2 Lodge proposal, which would have replaced the Conoco service station on 232 E. Main St., attracted 1,792 votes, or 63 percent, in opposition.

"The community has been asking for a new hotel for 30 years, and I was also excited about it," developer Mark Hunt said at the time.

Backers of Base2 Lodge argued Aspen needs hotels that can accommodate younger guests on a budget. Base2 would help address that need, they said.

Fewer than two weeks before the election, on Oct. 22, central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, which is owned by Aspen Skiing Co., released its updated study of available guest rooms and pillows. The study was conducted by DestiMetrics LLC.

The survey's key takeaways were that Aspen's total bed base decreased by 173 units, or 7.5 percent, from 2012. Those units account for 892 pillows.

The study found Snowmass' bed base dropped by 104 units, or 4.4 percent, since 2012. That's a loss of 226 pillows.

"While it's impossible to ensure that this data is 100 percent accurate or complete, it is the most comprehensive study of our resort's bed base ever undertaken and certainly represents a reasonable benchmark as we continue to track the evolution of our changing bed base," wrote Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Benton said that saying the town needs more cut-rate lodging isn't clear-cut.

"It's a much more complex question than whether you need more affordable rooms," he said. "If you build a new hotel, the cost of the new rooms and the cost of the construction is fairly expensive, so these new hotel rooms are probably going to be very expensive. I don't want to take sides, but I think Aspen has a certain level of attractiveness that it's successfully attracting a lot of business."

The state's hospitality industry is showing positive gains, he said, after the recession-fueled slump. The average daily rate in 2015 among all markets surveyed was $145.30, up from $135.49 in 2014, the report shows.

"A lot of the hotel markets are getting stronger," Benton said. "Business is coming back and hotels are able to increase their rates again. A lot of this depends on the economy, the snow and other factors. The economy goes down, the room rates go down. Or, all you need in Aspen is a bad snow year."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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