The town is filling up, so why aren’t hotels? |

The town is filling up, so why aren’t hotels?

Naomi Havlen

Aspen may feel crowded, but one very important measure – hotel occupancy – indicates there is still plenty of room to spare.At Tuesday’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association board meeting, the board’s lodging representatives said hotels – both large and small – aren’t full for what is typically one of the most popular holidays in Aspen.Stan Hajenga, general manager of the Mountain Chalet in Aspen, said the 11 hotels that make up the “Gems of Aspen,” a group of smaller lodges in town, are all a little behind on bookings. At The Gant, a large condominium hotel, general manager Molly Campbell said condos are still available – so many, in fact, that she wonders whether people are traveling over the Fourth of July weekend this year.She and other lodge managers suspect that the unrented rooms in town are a result of timing more than anything else.Mickey Spalding, head of the Aspen Lodging Co., said he has generally seen bookings reflect the day of the week that the holiday falls on. Typically, visitors stay longer when the holiday falls in the middle of the week. But this year, Independence Day falls on a Sunday, which is bad for business.Occupancy reports indicate that the lodging industry has done well over the last few weeks, said Bill Tomcich, president of the reservation agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.”We’re not having the heydays we did in 1998 and ’99, when hotels were sold out, but this is a positive trend,” Tomcich said. Stay Aspen Snowmass books approximately 6 percent of the business in Aspen.Tomcich pointed out that many of last month’s visitors arrived at the last minute, and bookings for July have been “pouring in” for the last three weeks.The industry trend continues moving toward last minute bookings, Tomcich said, with travelers waiting to make reservations until just a few weeks or even days before their trip. The trend accelerated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Mountain Chalet’s Hajenga said his guests sometimes call for reservations just three days before they arrive.When it comes to the rest of this year, Tomcich told the ACRA board that September is off to an “incredibly strong start.” Stay Aspen Snowmass has seen strong early bookings for Christmas. Because Christmas and New Year’s both fall on Saturday this year, lodge owners expect that the week between the holidays will be sold out. However, they will likely lose the two-week surge in business that typically occurs when the winter holidays fall in the middle of the week.David Perry, vice president for marketing at the Aspen Skiing Co., said group ticket sales for the 2004/2005 winter season are off to a good start. He is optimistic about the coming winter because the economy will be approaching its third full year of recovery.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is– see Empty rooms on page A6– continued from page A1

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