Holiday bust not so bad in Aspen |

Holiday bust not so bad in Aspen

The good news for the local tourism industry is that Aspen’s going to be full, or close to it. The bad news is it’s only going to be for a night or two rather than the usual full week between holidays.

Aspen’s tourist accommodations on New Year’s Eve will be close to full, predicted Bill Tomcich, president of Aspen Central Reservations. Discounted prices and decreased length-of-stay requirements helped lure travelers, he said.

Anyone who has watched television or read newspapers in recent months is aware the entire travel and leisure industry – including ski resorts – is hurting because people are staying home in unexpected numbers for the holidays. It’s been labeled the “Millennium Bust.”

So savvy shoppers started searching for the bargains this week, according to Tomcich.

“We have had three of our busiest days of the season Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.

But it’s too little, too late, particularly in Snowmass Village.

Occupancy for the week of Dec. 25-31 was only 65 percent, according to a Dec. 29 occupancy report from Snowmass Village Resort Association. The average occupancy for the corresponding week in the three prior seasons was 90 percent.

SVRA compiled its occupancy report from statistics supplied by 70 percent of the lodging properties.

The picture wasn’t quite as bleak in Aspen. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association reported that occupancy for Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 was 82 percent, based on current reservations, compared to 87 percent for the same week last year.

Tomcich expected this year’s figure to creep up due to a surge in last-minute reservations.

John Badalian, spokesman for the Aspen Group, which manages tourist properties in town, said the Hotel Aspen ended up increasing the occupancy over historical levels.

“It took a lot of hard work on the part of the staff,” he said.

The staff was even more persistent than usual with prospective guests, and minimum stay requirements for groups were dropped to three nights, Badalian said. The hotel was “staying close” to its rack rates on rooms.

Another property managed by the Aspen Group, the Aspen Mountain Lodge, is down slightly from historic occupancy levels, he said.

ACR’s Tomcich said he expects a “mass exodus” from Aspen Sunday, Jan. 2. The resort association’s occupancy reports bear out his suspicions. SVRA forecast a 45 percent occupancy rate for the week starting Jan. 1 compared to a three-year average of 75 percent.

And ACRA said current reservations would produce occupancy of 49 percent compared to 66 percent for the week last year.

A variety of sources said tourists with reservations in January and February haven’t canceled yet, despite lower-than-average snowfall.

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