Lodges half-empty as summer’s last big weekend approaches | AspenTimes.com

Lodges half-empty as summer’s last big weekend approaches

Occupancy rates in Aspen this Labor Day weekend are relatively strong, but the town is not yet sold out on this traditionally busy weekend.Overall, business for Labor Day weekend is a lot like business has been during the entire summer, and that’s a mixed bag, said Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich. Some lodges are booked up for the long holiday weekend, others are offering screaming deals to fill beds, and still others are hanging on to their usual rates waiting for last-minute business, he said.Online booking is one factor of why lodges are reporting widely different occupancy rates, Tomcich said. The reservations agency discovered this summer that lodges with online booking capabilities were more popular with visitors, who are increasingly booking vacations without speaking to a reservations agent.When Stay Aspen Snowmass offered this summer to help local lodges establish online booking, 11 jumped at that chance.Hotels in town are also becoming extremely competitive in their pricing, so visitors might be gravitating to the lodges with the best last-minute deals. Some hotels might be featuring these lower prices online.Tomcich calls that phenomenon “transparency in pricing,” when Web-savvy consumers who do their homework can surf easily from one site to the next, comparing prices and determining when and where to go for the best rates.”The customers now know when they’re not getting the best deal,” Tomcich said.According to the Web site for the St. Regis Aspen, there are rooms available for this weekend from $275 per night, compared to $445 per night during peak summer weekends. In a few weeks, during Aspen’s off-season, the St. Regis has rooms available from $215 per night.Overall, Tomcich said this summer appears to have been stronger than last, at least in terms of the total number of people in town. For Labor Day weekend 2002, hotels and lodges were 55 percent full. Without factoring in last-minute business, bookings this weekend were running at 53 percent as of yesterday.Tomcich has also taken into account the number of passengers flying in and out of Aspen this summer. For July 2003 Aspen saw 33,773 people enplane and deplane locally, versus 31,042 people in July last year. That’s an 8.7 percent increase this year.Incidentally, since United canceled several flights in and out of Aspen this summer, its seating capacity into Aspen decreased 17 percent from last year. But the airline canceled traditionally empty flights and instead focused its service on busy weekends, such as Food & Wine Classic and the Independence Day Weekend.”We’re still waiting to see their finalized schedule for the winter. So far, they do have 12 daily flights between Denver and Aspen,” Tomcich said. “It’s too soon to say, but we expect it will be very similar to last year. It’ll probably be a smarter schedule like we had this summer.”[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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