Report: More bookings for race than last year

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

More people stayed in Aspen and Snowmass Village hotel rooms for the two nights preceding the USA Pro Challenge stages this year compared with last year’s two nights before the bike-race events, according to figures released this week by DestiMetrics LLC, a firm that specializes in measuring hotel and lodge performance at resort destinations.

The combined occupancy-rate percentages from both markets show 77 percent on Sunday and 67 percent on Monday, which outpaced 2012’s figures of 48 percent and 62 percent on the comparable nights of Aug. 22 and 23. However, it should be noted that this year the two communities hosted the first and second stages of the race on Monday and Tuesday, while last year Aspen hosted the third and fourth stages of the event midweek, on a Wednesday and Thursday.

While this year’s version of the two local stages of the event did indeed put more heads in beds than the previous year, like last year, a sizable number of those room nights were deeply discounted or provided at no cost to the racing teams and event entourage.

“There’s no question now that in total, there were a lot more folks in town for this year’s race than either of the two previous years,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass and director of operations for the event’s local organizing committee. This year marked the third consecutive year that Aspen has hosted at least one stage of the seven-stage race. It also was the first time that the Snowmass area was included in one of the race routes.

Though the race didn’t spark a sellout or near-sellout of all the rooms in the area, the percentages are considered to be healthy considering that the race arrives at the start of a traditionally slow time of year for tourism, after the close of the Aspen Music Festival.

Also, as Tomcich told The Aspen Times on Tuesday, more than a few local hospitality properties were either sold out or nearly sold out not only on Sunday and Monday but on Saturday, as well, thanks to a combination of early arrivals for the race and the last weekend of the music festival.

“While it was a ton of work for a lot of folks with a nearly unpredictable barrage of last-minute changes, I’ve heard many great comments throughout the lodging communities of both Aspen and Snowmass about what a great event the USA Pro Challenge was for this community while expressing a strong desire to welcome their return next year,” Tomcich said.

However, he explained, an examination of the DestiMetrics data, which are based on pre-race, pre-weekend bookings as of Aug. 15, indicates that Aspen occupancy for the race dropped while Snowmass Village’s rates climbed significantly.

That’s because the decision was made to house much of the race entourage in Snowmass Village this year — more than 2,000 room nights — because Aspen’s hotels were busy on Friday and Saturday with regular summer visitors and music-festival crowds. Another factor: The Westin and Wildwood hotel properties in Snowmass Village were closed last year for renovations, but their combined 400 rooms were available for this year’s event.

But Tomcich said the final DestiMetrics occupancy analysis for August, to be released in a few weeks, should put the Sunday and Monday-night count a little higher than 77 percent and 67 percent because of the influx of last-minute visitors.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Aspen City Council will hold a work session to obtain comments about the race from residents and businesses to learn more about its effect on the community.