Tourism sees late-August lull

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

With the Aspen Music Festival season finished and the local stages of the USA Pro Challenge completed, the summer tourism season will settle into its typical late-August lull before business picks up again on Labor Day weekend, nine days from now.

“We are going to see some of the quietest nights around here since the end of May,” wrote Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, in his observations about the monthly DestiMetrics report on Aspen and Snowmass Village lodging-reservations activity.

This weekend looks “really quiet,” but Labor Day weekend “is shaping up to be among the busiest of the entire summer,” he wrote.

As for the effect of the bike race — which kicked off with a circuit race looping between Aspen and the Snowmass Village area on Monday and left Aspen for Independence Pass on a route to Breckenridge on Tuesday — Sunday and Monday lodging occupancy is likely to turn out better than expected because of last-minute bookings by both spectators and workers associated with the 16 racing teams and the event’s production, Tomcich said Tuesday.

Predictions for Sunday and Monday occupancy in Aspen were between 60 and 70 percent last week, a range that’s considered positive when considering that the music festival ended Sunday. Tomcich said he believes that when the DestiMetrics report for August is released, the data will show that Aspen occupancy for the bike race was even higher, although he declined to speculate on what it will be.

“I was told by the manager of the Sky Hotel that it was completely sold out on Sunday and Monday nights,” Tomcich said. “The Aspen Square was very close to sold out. I just learned the (Independence Square Hotel) was almost sold out. There was a lot of last-minute build, even beyond our expectations.”

Also, the Westin and Wildwood hotels and their combined 400 rooms were sold out on Saturday and Sunday nights, he said. Most of the race entourage stayed in Snowmass Village and left after Monday’s stage for Breckenridge to prepare for the cyclists’ arrival on Tuesday afternoon.

“Overall, from the lodging community’s perspective, we have a lot of happy properties,” Tomcich said.

Sally Spaulding, public relations director for Aspen Skiing Co.’s hospitality division, which includes the Limelight Hotel and The Little Nell Hotel and Residences, said she could not provide details about the Sunday and Monday occupancy rates of the two properties.

“We were not sold out at either property,” Spaulding said, “but we had a pretty strong showing for a Sunday and Monday time frame this late in the summer.”

Crowd sizes Monday and Tuesday were not estimated by the city or local law enforcement agencies. In 2012, then-Mayor Mick Ireland told The Denver Post that Aspen drew 5,000 spectators during the cycling event that year.

Previous surveys by the city suggest that while many business owners and managers support the USA Pro Challenge and want to keep it, their operations don’t necessarily benefit from it. In fact, some downtown Aspen businesses closed for the day on Monday, citing street closures and other factors that reduce sales during the bike race.

City of Aspen Communications Director Mitzi Rapkin said the City Council will hold a work session starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday to gather public comments about the bike race. Mayor Steve Skadron requested the meeting to gauge how local residents and the business community feel about it, Rapkin said.

Aspen has served as a host city for the professional cycling event for three consecutive years.


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