Aspen, Snowmass lodging business spikes in June |

Aspen, Snowmass lodging business spikes in June

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – June produced double-digit increases in lodging occupancy in both Aspen and Snowmass Village, a performance that one local tourism official termed “extraordinary.”Occupancy rates in Aspen were up 18.6 percent last month compared with June 2011, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP, which tallies occupancy rates at resorts around Colorado and the West. Overall occupancy for the month stood at 62 percent based on a sampling of as many as 17 properties representing 1,510 lodging units in Aspen. “It was one of the best Junes we’ve had,” said John Speers, general manager of the luxury Little Nell hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain. The final three weeks of the month weren’t a complete sellout, but the hotel was looking at sporadic vacancies – nights here and there, he reported.A sellout 30th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and earlier dates for the Aspen Ideas Festival, which wrapped up the weekend before the midweek Fourth of July holiday, both helped drive up June numbers, according to Charlie Case, innkeeper at the Annabelle Inn on Main Street.”We were near capacity for the second half of the month,” said Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square Condo Hotel on Cooper Avenue.For the months of May and June together, Aspen bookings were up about 22 percent compared with the same two months a year ago, according to MTRiP.Local increases in occupancy came despite the impact wildfires in various areas of Colorado had on tourism. Aspen and Snowmass undoubtedly lost some business as a result of publicity about the fires, though none were burning locally, but Front Range residents seeking relief from the heat and smoke likely helped bolster bookings, said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.For the most part, he said, the strong June was set in motion long before a drought and the fires made headlines. Passes for Food & Wine, for example, sold out early, and the event’s impact on bookings spilled over to Snowmass.June’s occupancy rate in Snowmass was up by an impressive margin – about 47 percent – but the increase reflects roughly 370 fewer rooms that are available as a result of remodeling projects that have closed accommodations at the Westin (the former Silvertree Hotel) and Wildwood Lodge. Nonetheless, there were close to 10 percent more overnight visitors in Snowmass last month even though about 25 percent of the resort’s accommodations were unavailable, Tomcich noted.”June was really good, no matter how you slice it,” he said, calling the month “extraordinary.”July bookings made by the end of June put occupancy rates this month in Snowmass up 35.5 percent, but again, the resort’s overall room count is down by about one quarter. Projected July occupancy in Aspen, based on bookings made by June 30, was up nearly 13 percent, MTRiP reported.At Aspen Square, bookings in July are up by double digits, Klug said.July is typically the busiest month of the summer at The Little Nell, Speers said, but the entire rest of the summer is looking strong.”The last week of August, which is typically very slow, is filling up quickly with group business and activities associated with the bike race,” he said.The USA Pro Cycling Challenge returns in August, with both a stage finish and a start in Aspen. Pro bike riders arrive in Aspen on Aug. 22 and depart the following day. Three days of women’s pro racing will take place Aug. 20 through 22.Speers’ projections aside, MTRiP reported a decline in advance reservations in Aspen. Bookings made in June, for arrivals in June through November, were down 6.7 percent compared with 2011. Bookings taken in June for arrival in June dropped about 13 percent in Aspen, the research program said.In Snowmass, June’s booking pace for arrivals through November was up 20.5 percent, according to MTRiP.Increasing in both Aspen and Snowmass in May and June was the average daily rate for accommodations – by 5.7 percent in Aspen and about 15 percent in Snowmass.Klug, however, said competition for visitors remains fierce among mountain resorts, and pricing is a challenge.”Everybody who comes is looking for a discount or a special rate. That’s just how it is today,” he

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