Hotels getting used to waiting until the last minute for lodgers
Aspen’s hotels saw a “last-second” rush of travelers during the Fourth of July weekend, and while many hotels weren’t sold out, it may have been a busier weekend than was expected.When the holiday falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, people are less likely to book extended stays. Even so, the late rush on rooms was staggering, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a reservations firm.”It’s amazing how many last-second bookings came to town – and that’s even later than last-minute bookings,” he said with a laugh. “But that’s going to be par for the course this summer. You don’t know how good the weekend is going to be until it’s past.”Occupancy reports from the weekend weren’t available yet, but Tomcich guesses the numbers are going to be about equal to last year because of the late bookings. From June 27 to July 3, hotels reported being 64 percent occupied, compared to 75 percent last year.But from June 20-26 the hotels reported a final occupancy of 70 percent this year, compared to 57 percent in 2003. Tomcich attributes that leap to late bookings.At The Gant, an Aspen condominium hotel, reservations manager Lex Tarumianz said last-minute reservations and some walk-ins made all the difference in occupancy. The hotel was sold out Saturday night, he said.Sensing that travelers might be booking late, The Gant kept a fairly strict five-night minimum on bookings for the weekend. That left some rooms available to people wanting to reserve a place to stay in the last month before the holiday weekend.”People were coming up for shorter time periods since it wasn’t a holiday for everyone on the fifth,” he said. “Hence, people weren’t coming from as far away. We were heavier on guests who drove from Denver, Grand Junction and the Front Range.”Tarumianz said there was some concern about slow bookings earlier this year – calls went “from a crawl to a standstill,” until the hotel dropped its minimum stay. Instead, with late calls and walk-ins, the hotel has already hit its budgeted reservations dollars for the month.”The rest of July looks like it typically does, a little softer after the holiday and then slowly building back to the last week of July and first week of August – the busiest of the summer,” Tarumianz said.Of course, if the last-minute trend continues, eventually people who attempt to walk into local hotels and find rooms the day they arrive may end up going to Snowmass Village or downvalley, Tomcich said.”Maybe that will start reversing the trend, but we’ve been watching [the last-minute] curve get closer and closer for years,” he said.The demand in the Stay Aspen Snowmass call center for the past three weeks is encouraging, he added, and it’s possible that this summer will be better than last.”The economy is changing, people are traveling and they’ve been less resistant to prices for the past six to seven months,” Tarumianz noted. “I think we’re finally coming out of the Sept. 11 downturn in the economy.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the descent that poses a challenge.