Revenues slide for Vail Resorts |

Revenues slide for Vail Resorts

Melanie Wong
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyGreg Skurkovich, of New Jersey, hits the powder Wednesday at Vail. Despite good snow conditions, early season skier visits at the ski areas operated by Vail Resorts were down, the company said Friday.

VAIL, Colo. ” Skier visits, lift ticket revenue and bookings for the early season are all down compared to last year, a slide that wasn’t unexpected, Vail Resorts reported Friday.

The numbers are for the comparative periods from the beginning of the ski season through Jan. 4, 2009, and for the prior year period through Jan. 6, 2008, with both periods including the holiday period through the first Sunday after New Year’s Day.

In a December earnings report, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said the company expected to be hit by the economy just like the rest of the travel and leisure industry. Several indicators are now confirming that prediction.

Skier visits so far this season are down almost 6 percent compared to this time last year, the resort said in a press release. However, while overall visits were down, the company caught up on some of the loss thanks to busy holiday weeks, when skier visits actually topped last year’s numbers.

Lift ticket revenue, which takes into account revenue from season passes, is also down 7.5 percent.

And while room nights booked at the resort’s properties as of Dec. 31 were down almost 15 percent from last year, the numbers showed improvement from November, when the resort reported that bookings were down 23 percent.

The improvement in bookings is partly due to more guests booking their vacations last minute, said Kelly Ladyga, a spokeswoman for the company.

Also, the company has offered very “aggressive” promotional offers that have attracted visitors, she said.

“We’ve offered packages for lodging, lift tickets, baggage fees, and on-mountain dining,” Ladyga said. “We’ve been trying to address every component of the ski vacation to make it easier for people to come.”

Ski school revenues are also significantly down, with a 20 percent decline from last year.

“We believe the greater decline in ski school revenue was due to lower guest spending on certain higher priced items during their trip, a trend that was matched in lower check averages at certain of our fine-dining restaurants,” Katz said.

While the resort declined to comment on whether the numbers were better or worse than expected, some analysts are saying that the early season numbers are looking positive.

“They should be celebrating ” they are in better shape than other resorts in similar situations,” said James Chung, a president of a Reach Advisors, a resort marketing firm.

Both the Epic Pass and the promotional deals the town and resort have offered have made Vail much more accessible to visitors, he said.

“They’ve done what no other ski resort in America has been able to do,” said Chung, comparing Vail to some of his clients. “They saw what was coming in advance and they were able to turn it around and do something about it. It’s a really ugly environment out there for resorts.”

The improved lodge bookings show “positive traction” for the Vail economy, said Chris Romer, reservations manager for the Vail Valley Partnership.

Last-minute business has been strong ” historically, guests have booked vacations three months or more in advance, Romer said.

Now, people are booking airline tickets and lodging reservations a month or less in advance.

Some lodging and dining deals through Vail Resorts as well as Vail All the Love, a marketing campaign organized by the town, have been very popular, he said.

“There’s so much uncertainty in the overall economy with job situations and stock market portfolios,” Romer said. “People are saying, ‘Well, I have my job, my portfolio looks good, I’m going skiing in a few weeks.”

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