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Aspen economy showing slow rebound

ASPEN – Aspen is showing some signs of economic recovery but clearly the resort is not out of woods, based on recent sales tax and occupancy report data.

Taxable sales for January show that Aspen was up 4 percent over the previous year during the same month. Consumption-based sales tax revenue for the city in January 2009 was down 21 percent over the year before.

“It’s not a huge improvement,” said Aspen Finance Director Don Taylor. “Nobody expects to make it all back … it’s going to take a while.”

In the city’s sales tax report released last week, a new industrial category of automobiles was broken out from the “general retail” category because there was such a significant jump from the year prior – a 386 percent increase, or more than $1.4 million in taxable revenue.

“We thought it was important to point out,” said Taylor, adding that the increase is indicative of lackluster sales in January 2009 compared to this year.

While Aspen does not have any automobile dealers, state law allows the sales tax revenue to return to the buyer’s city of residency, according to Taylor.

Lodging tax collections for January were up 6 percent over the same month last year, according to the city’s report.

Occupancy reports for Aspen and Snowmass released Tuesday show that the resorts are rebounding slowly.

Based on a sample of 16 properties in Aspen, representing 1,437 units, or 72 percent of the local inventory, occupancy rates for February are up 1.6 percent over the same month in 2009.

But the average daily rate is down 12.8 percent for February, from $488 last season to $425 this year.

From November through February, occupancy in Aspen’s lodges was down 3.8 percent, and the average daily rate for the same period was down 5.5 percent, according to the report released by MTRiP, an agency that tracks mountain resort communities.

Bookings indicate occupancy for March in Aspen is up 1.2 compared to the same period last year, according to MTRiP.

“While overall occupancies for the month of March are just slightly ahead of last year, like last year we will see occupancies steadily decline from now through March 25, at which point we will see a strong finish to the month, especially compared with last year when Easter fell one week earlier,” the report states. “The first week of April, the final week of the ski season for both Aspen and Snowmass, will start off very slow but should finish stronger than last year thanks to reasonably strong bookings from April 7-10.”

Occupancies in Snowmass, based on 10 properties representing 1,465 units, or 88 percent of the resort’s inventory, show a 6.3 percent decline for February compared to the same month last year, and the average daily rate went down 9.3 percent.

Occupancy rates from November to February were down significantly in Snowmass – 8.1 percent, and the daily average rate fell 7.6 percent, from $329 last season to $302 this year.

There’s a glimmer of hope for Snowmass, however, with occupancy up 4.5 percent in March over the same month last year.

“While occupancies will steadily decline from now through March 25, the last two weeks of March should both be considerably stronger than last year for Snowmass,” the report states. “Easter week, March 27-April 3, will most certainly be Snowmass’ strongest week of the entire ski season with occupancies approaching 90 percent.”

csack@aspentimes.com


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