Local occupancy looks to be cooling off in Snowmass
Survey says pricey gas is impacting travel plans
After last year’s post-pandemic tourism comeback, visitation in Snowmass Village looks like it might be cooling off a bit, according to occupancy statistics Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello presented in a Tourism Talk webinar June 23.
As of May 31, the combined occupancy rate data for Aspen and Snowmass Village showed that “summer to date, May through October, we’re down 11% year over year,” Abello said. (That 11% stat is a proportional decrease, not the number of percentage points: Combined occupancy data for 2022 to date range from 33.9% compared with a 2021 rate of 38%.)
“So I feel like we’re sort of getting close to being on the edge of a cliff,” Abello said. “I don’t think we’re gonna dive off the cliff — this is my Magic 8 Ball — but I do think there’s a softening.”
Abello pointed to month-to-month and day-to-day occupancy stats (both historical and on-the-books) from the hospitality data-tracker DestiMetrics as evidence of that “softening.”
A blue bar on the charts from DestiMetrics represents the occupancy for this year. A red bar represents the occupancy for last year. When the blue bar is taller, that generally means there’s a higher percentage of booked rooms in a given month or day this year than there were in the same month a year before.
“I usually stand in front of you and show this chart and say ‘Look at that, the blue’s above the red, and that’s usually good, right?’” Abello said.
This time, though, there’s quite a bit of red above the blue. The outlook on April 30 showed bookings this year tracking ahead for June, July, September and October and tracking behind in May and August. The outlook on May 30 showed bookings tracking ahead only for the month of June and projections were level year-over-year in September and October.
“With all these dates to come, last year’s numbers are a lot higher than where we are as of this moment,” Abello said.
The DestiMetrics season-to-date data indicates that the summer average daily room rate isn’t far off from last year in Snowmass — it’s $278 this year compared with $272 last year — but in the village, the paid occupancy rate is currently tracking at 25.7% for 2022 compared with 28.2%. Abello said she’s heard anecdotes of “price resistance” from people who are calling to make reservations, too.
But it’s not the COVID-19 pandemic that seems to be moving the numbers, according to the latest results of an ongoing travel sentiment study conducted by the Longwoods International that Abello presented at the Tourism Talk.
The market research group has conducted 62 of these pulse-checks since March 2020, and in the June 8, 2022, iteration, just 16% of the 1,000 respondents indicated the virus would greatly impact their travel plans for the next six months.
(The percentage has mostly hovered in the 20s and 30s since March 2021 and dipped to 19% on May 11; at the peak in April of 2020, nearly 66% of the respondents at the time had reported that COVID-19 would greatly impact their travel plans in the next six months.)
“It’s as low as it’s been. … so we kind of see that as a non issue,” Abello said while presenting the data from the survey in last week’s Tourism Talk.
The factor that’s more in play these days is the cost of gas, which seems to keep getting higher and higher.
“The not-so-good news is the impact of rising gas prices on people’s decision to travel in the next six months,” Abello said.
In a June 8 iteration of the survey, 41% of 1,000 respondents indicated that rising gas prices would “greatly impact” their decision to travel in the next six months.
That stat has been trending upward since March, though not necessarily in a straight line month-to-month.
On March 2, 29% of respondents selected the “greatly impact” option. The count jumped to 38% on March 16 and held steady on March 30 before ticking down a bit to 37% on April 13 and 32% on May 11.
The survey was scaled from 1 to 5, with a response of 1 representing “no impact at all” and a response of 5 indicating that rising gas prices would “greatly impact” the respondent’s decision to travel in the next six months.
In the June survey, another 25% of respondents chose a 4 on the scale of 1 to 5, indicating that gas prices would still have a notable impact on their travel plans, and 21% were right in the middle with a response of 3 on the scale. Only 8% opted for a score of 2, and just 5% selected the option of 1 to indicate that gas prices would have “no impact at all” on their travel plans.
What that translates to is a lot of different shifts in how people are traveling, according to the traveler sentiment survey results Abello referenced in her presentation.
“They’re choosing destinations closer to home, they’re reducing the number of trips they’re taking, they’re reducing the amount they spend on retail or dining or hotels or all those other things, they’re choosing to drive instead of fly, they’re canceling trips,” Abello said. “So that impact of rising gas prices continues to be, or is becoming a more concerning issue.”
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