Does Aspen business fall with fall?
September 29, 2008
ASPEN ” Throughout the valley, similar effects of September are being felt ” the leaves are turning and the air is crisp. But when it comes to economics, the offseason is affecting all parts of the area differently.
In Aspen, things are looking pretty rosy. “September is the new May,” said Lisa Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. While September was considered offseason years ago, that’s simply not the case anymore, she said. In early fall, the weather is still mild, and the leaves are bright and colorful. Johnson said she thinks word is starting to get around.
At the Maroon Bells near Aspen, for example, attendance during weekends in late September has been greater than weekends in the summer months. Other big draws include the scenic drive over Independence Pass, as well as a bevy of events, such as this past weekend’s annual rugby tournament, Ruggerfest.
“So you still have a good, steady amount of business that drops off about 15 percent from August,” Johnson said.
As the season goes into October, however, visitors do stay away. A 50 percent occupancy rate in September becomes 20 percent the next month, so the ACRA is determined to stretch early autumn’s prosperity as far as it can.
This year, to help counter balance high gas prices and economic concerns in the country, the ACRA is offering a $50 fuel voucher for families and is doing its best to alert everyone to the bargains that can be found.
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When Colorado consumers compare the cost of a trip to Aspen to flying somewhere else for vacation, it’s more affordable than they might think.
Redstone, however, isn’t singing quite the same, upbeat tune. Tucked nearly 20 miles off Highway 82 up the Crystal River Valley south of Carbondale, it’s just remote enough to make gas-conscious road-trippers think twice about a visit.
According to Debby Strom, general manager of the Redstone Inn, September usually is one of their best months ” a time when they reach close to 100 percent occupancy.
Not this year, though. After experiencing their strongest July and August to date, business is down about 25 percent this month. Usually Strom sees her inn filled by an older set of Colorado travelers who come to the village for its autumn leaves and its annual Labor Day Art Show. Fuel costs, she feels, are discouraging the senior spenders.
“I can see them affected by the gas,” Strom said.
Straight off Interstate 70, Glenwood Springs, on the other hand, seems relatively unfazed by the crunch. The most easily accessible of all the towns in the valley, a large part of its tourism base is made up of Colorado travelers. For them, September seems to be as good a time as any to plan a vacation.
“September in particular has grown,” said Kate Collins, vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
Occupancy rates, which usually hit between 85 and 90 percent in August, fall to about 70 percent in September. Collins admitted they’ve probably gone a bit below that this year but she seemed unworried. Throughout summer, the “drive market,” has proven to sustain itself. “People are realizing September is a great time to visit us,” she said.
Randi Lowenthal, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, shared her confidence on strong fall tourism.
“I think activity in the town of Carbondale in general is high,” she said. “If you walk down Main Street, there’s a lot of people.”
Historically, September and October are good months for Carbondale, and business usually falls only a few percentage points. Though there aren’t many lodging options to choose from (Carbondale has two hotels, plus bed and breakfasts), Lowenthal said she thinks the gourmet restaurants and nearby outdoor activities keep people coming in the fall.
The price of gas might even be a good thing because in-state tourists may see the town as a close home base for their autumn vacations, Lowenthal said.
“We’re trying not to jump to any conclusions,” she said.