Fireworks, plenty of tourists return for Fourth |

Fireworks, plenty of tourists return for Fourth

Steve Benson and Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writers

After a year off, fireworks will return to Aspen this Fourth of July, and lodges are gearing up for a busy weekend.The threat of wildfires amid tinder-dry conditions canceled last year’s fireworks and helped reduce visitor numbers. With a wet spring and the Fourth of July landing on a Friday, creating a three-day holiday, hotels are already reaching full capacity.”Depending on how many last-minute bookings we get, it could be a sell out in Aspen,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.As of Sunday night, most hotels in Aspen were either full or at near-full capacity for this weekend, Tomcich said. Snowmass Village is not looking as full, he added.”Until a couple years ago, the Fourth was considered an automatic sellout,” Tomcich said. In recent years, visitor numbers have dwindled due to a depressed economy and the holiday landing in the middle of the week.”This year is better than last year,” he said. “It should be certainly the busiest single weekend in town since the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in early March.”Tomcich said when the Fourth of July lands on a Friday or Monday, creating a three-day holiday, the event sells itself.”There were no real promotions geared toward this weekend,” he said. “It’s the biggest holiday of the summer season.”At the St. Moritz Lodge, owner Michael Behrendt said it looks like summer will truly hit Aspen this weekend “with a slam.””We’ll be full tonight,” he said yesterday, “and although we had a very light spring and were down 25 to 30 percent for May, we had a wonderful Food & Wine weekend, a terrific Jazz Aspen weekend, and I would expect we’ll go through Aug. 20 with wonderful summer business.”During the week the St. Moritz offers some package deals, but for the Fourth of July weekend the lodge is having no trouble filling beds, Behrendt said. He added he’s seeing a trend of people booking rooms at the last minute.”Americans are taking more shorter vacations, and they’re taking spur-of-the-moment dashes out of town,” he said. “If anything, they need to think about discounting airline tickets.”Cal Viall, sales director at the Hotel Aspen, said the hotel is oversold for the night of Thursday, full for Friday and has two rooms left for Saturday night. He said most of the business is coming from Front Range visitors, but that New York and Florida residents are also filling up the hotel for the weekend.The Boomerang Lodge is in a similar position – general manager George Miller said the hotel has one apartment unit left for the weekend. He said the lodge’s numbers look about the same as last year.”We’re looking forward to a great holiday weekend – it’s business as usual around here,” said Little Nell general manager Eric Calderon. “We do promotions in the spring and fall, but not for major holidays like this one.”Calderon said he has also noticed a trend toward people making last-minute reservations and shopping around for deals. He said the hotel tries to accommodate people at the last minute, though that’s difficult on busy weekends such as the upcoming one.

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