Aspen-Snowmass winter occupancy pacing down 45% from last year
Reports indicate Aspen faring worse than other western mountain resorts
Now that ski season has passed the halfway point, a more complete picture is starting to unfold about winter occupancy in Aspen and other western mountain resorts. As expected, it isn’t pretty.
Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency, released its monthly occupancy report on Wednesday, and it included a look at the numbers for November through April.
“As of January 31, the winter is pacing down 45.2 percent to this time last year,” the report said. “Demand has increased for the later half of the season and with the FIS Snowboard World Championships and NASTAR Nationals added to the calendar, March and April are expected to fill in nicely.”
Paid occupancy for the winter, based on reservations that have already been made, is 29 percent for Aspen and 31 percent for Snowmass Village. Both towns were in the mid-50 percent range last winter as a whole.
Aspen and Snowmass Village rely more heavily than many resorts on destination travelers, those taking an overnight visit. They don’t draw as much one day-trippers from urban areas.
For the bigger picture on occupancy, DestiMetrics looks at bookings at lodging properties in 18 mountain destinations across eight western states. DestiMetrics is the “business intelligence division” of a company called Inntopia.
DestiMetrics’ mid-winter report said cumulative occupancy for the resorts it monitors is down 27.8 percent for November through April. Aspen and Snowmass Village were well off that mark with the decline of 45.2 percent.
The average daily rate for all resorts was down 6.2 percent year-over-year for the winter, according to DestiMetrics. Significantly lower occupancy and a decrease in the average daily rate spells disaster for winter revenues.
“The sluggish occupancy when coupled with lower rates is creating a dramatic 32.3 percent decline in winter revenues — but again, an improvement over last month when they were down 36.9 percent,” DestiMetrics said in its report.
January was particularly brutal for Aspen and Snowmass Village. International tourism and group business — the bread-and-butter for the start of the year — were non-existent. Pitkin County also temporarily moved to “Red” on the COVID-19 dial, forcing further restrictions on business capacity.
Aspen’s occupancy for January was 38.3 percent, down from 75 percent for the month in 2020, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass.
Snowmass Village properties managed only 31.7 percent occupancy, down from 75 percent in January last year.
An independent analysis by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association showed that multiple other Colorado resorts topped Aspen for occupancy in January. Vail was at 49.3 percent, Breckenridge was at 54.8, Steamboat Springs at 44.7 and Telluride at 37.7, according to the association’s Rocky Mountain Lodging Report. The association had a slightly different occupancy for Aspen in January at 35.1 percent compared to 38.3 percent noted by DestiMetrics.
DestiMetrics and the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association had vastly different figures for the average daily rate in Aspen properties. The change may be due to different properties in their samples.
DestiMetrics said Aspen’s average daily rate in January was $484. The lodging association’s Rocky Mountain Lodging Report said Aspen’s average daily rate in January was $634.87, significantly higher than Vail ($419.16) and Telluride ($495.11).
Aspen Snowmass’s outlook for February occupancy was also grim based on reservations on the books as of Jan. 31. The cumulative occupancy was 34.5 percent, which is nearly 55 percent off last year’s level for the month, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass.
DestiMetrics noted in its report that consumers are making reservations close in time to when they want to travel, perhaps reflecting caution because of the pandemic.
“Bookings made one to 30 days in advance are the predominant transaction, and through some strategic rate management, many properties are achieving some incremental fill,” Tom Foley, senior vice president for business operations and analytics for Inntopia, said in a news release.
No numbers are available yet on the expected decline in skier visits for Aspen Skiing Co. and other resort operators.
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Responding to concerns from Aspen business leaders that the traveler-affidavit requirement keeps driving away potential visitors and will continue hurting the tourism trade, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock told commissioners Tuesday he and staff will recommend to the board of health to consider a revamp of the program.