Resort official: Summer already hot
The snow has been flying this week, but one local travel official is already thinking about summer bookings.And there’s already a rosy start to the summer, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, at last Tuesday’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors meeting. Both hotel room reservations and airline seats are filling up during every week of the summer, he said.One of the most optimistic indicators of a summer business boom is increased air service to town. United Airlines will resume 11 daily flights between Denver and Aspen, while Northwest Airlines will have a flight between Minneapolis and Aspen for the first time in three summers.Northwest’s evening inbound flight is perfectly timed to connect with flights from the East Coast, he said. The flight runs from June 23 until Oct. 2.The two-and-a-half-hour flight is the equivalent of five flights on United Express between Aspen and Denver – so time-wise, Tomcich said, it is a “tremendous commitment” on Northwest’s part.”We need to talk it up – there are plenty of seats, and there should be some lower fares since it’s a new flight,” he told ACRA board members.Northwest announced the flight earlier this month. Spokesman Thomas Becher said the airline “re-evaluated” summer service before concluding there was a good potential for success.”Aspen is a good market for us in the winter,” he said. “We saw it as a natural extension of our existing service.”The airline’s 69-seat British Aerospace Avro RJ85, operated by Northwest Airlink partner Mesaba Airlines, has the only first-class service into Aspen. The plane has 16 first-class cabin seats and 53 seats in coach.Elsewhere, the Eagle County Airport will have a new direct American Airlines flight from Dallas this summer, and United will offer a direct flight from Chicago to Eagle.”This is the best air service during the summer that we’ve seen in a long time,” Tomcich said. Air service often operates like a pendulum, he said, correcting in response to market forces.In the past airlines have added more flights in response to increased demand for seats, but when there are too many empty seats, airlines cancel flights. With big cutbacks in the past amid the recession and after Sept. 11, last year’s busy summer made for full planes, he said.”They’re eager to add more service in this area – it’s an attitude of growth for this summer and probably next winter,” he said.In addition, airlines are happy to hear about large developments such as Base Village at Snowmass Village and the Hyatt in Aspen that will create more beds for visitors, Tomcich said.”Their eyes light up when we tell them about the developments, and it weighs heavily in our favor for expanded air service,” he said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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