Aspen-Snowmass hotel industry poised for strong second half |

Aspen-Snowmass hotel industry poised for strong second half

Season occupancy currently up 2.2% from 2019-20 mark

Guests of The Little Nell walk out of the hotel and are greeted by the concierges in downtown Aspen on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Occupancy at Aspen and Snowmass Village was down 8.1% in January compared to pre-pandemic numbers in 2019 but Aspen Skiing Co. expects a boom over the next six weeks.

Reservations on the books start to soar for Presidents Day Weekend Feb. 19-21 and keep up an impressive pace through spring break.

“March is gangbusters,” Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said. “We’re not worried about March.”

As the numbers stand now, occupancy for November through April is at 55.3%, according to an occupancy report released Tuesday by Skico, Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Snowmass Tourism. That is 87% better than last season, which was hampered by social distancing and restrictions on chairlifts and indoor, on-mountain facilities. More importantly, occupancy for the season is 2.2% better than 2019-20.

The 2019-20 season was going strong until Colo. Gov. Jared Polis ordered a shutdown of ski areas and most other activities on March 14 in response to the surging pandemic. So matching numbers up to that point is seen as positive.

One key to success this season was a team effort to revive group business, which didn’t exist last season because of social distancing requirements, Hanle said. The shining example was the return of the National Brotherhood of Skiers event, which brought more than 900 people to town between X Games and Presidents Day weekends, a traditionally slow period.

Hanle said the marketing teams of Skico and its partners also worked to revive international business, which was on life support last season because of travel restrictions. Customers from the Mexico market were targeted to come outside of their traditional travel times, Hanle said. The occupancy report also noted that a strong showing is expected from guests from Latin America during Carnival week starting at the end of February.

“March is gangbusters.” — Skico’s Jeff Hanle

Meanwhile, Skico and partners have continued to nurture long-term relationships with powerhouse international markets such as Australia. The number of Aussies in town during the usually busy month of January was down significantly last month — and it showed. Occupancy for Aspen and Snowmass Village was 69% in January, down 8% from January 2019.

Nevertheless, business exceeded projections. “January occupancy benefitted from a tremendous pickup in response to our snowfall in December as well as a recovery of groups, events and some international guest visitation,” the occupancy report said.

The business level at Aspen-Snowmass during January mirrored a trend in western U.S. mountain resorts. A company called DestiMetrics releases an occupancy report called the Monthly Market Briefing that looks at data from 18 western mountain destinations in seven states. Cumulative occupancy was down 3.7% compared to January 2020, prior to the pandemic.

DestiMetrics’ report noted that the “COVID-19 pandemic still has a strong influence on booking patterns at resort destinations and shows a clear correlation that as cases rise, bookings decline and when cases begin to drop, bookings go up.”

For the entire winter, cumulative occupancy at the 18 destinations is up 5.7% compared to two seasons ago, according to DestiMetrics. That includes actual occupancy for November, December and January and business on the books for February, March and April.

The average daily rate at western resorts has bounced back strong at western resorts, DestiMetrics reported. That holds true for properties in Aspen and Snowmass Village. The average daily rate in Aspen was $786 per night in January 2022 compared to $494 for the month in 2021. The ADR in Snowmass Village improved to $570 from $451.