X Games boost Aspen lodging bookings
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The Winter X Games likely will produce the biggest weekend Aspen and Snowmass will see for the rest of winter ” providing a boost for the whole Roaring Fork Valley in this year’s recession. The winter action sports event, held at Buttermilk, begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, Jan. 25.
Though advance bookings are down, local lodging experts expect that this year’s trend of last-minute bookings will continue to boost sales. According to Bill Tomcich at the central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, bookings for the X Games ” as of Jan. 1 ” peaked out at around the 75 percent range, trailing 10 percentage points behind the peak from last year’s Jan. 1 occupancy report.
Still, Tomcich was reasonably certain that “every reasonably priced hotel room” in Aspen and Snowmass would eventually be sold for the weekend. Luxury lodgings have traditionally been less popular with the X Games crowd, he noted.
“I just don’t think we’re going to sell [the rooms] out until probably the last minute,” he said.
Local lodging managers agreed, noting that this year’s economic uncertainty has led to more last-minute reservations, in general. The good news, said Tomcich, is that unlike previous years, rooms are available for last-minute travelers.
Regardless, the event is on track to produce the busiest weekend for the balance of winter, Tomcich said. It could even rival ” if not exceed ” New Year’s weekend, which peaked at roughly 90 percent occupancy, he said.
For the last six years, Winter X Games occupancy has peaked at over 98 percent, according to John Rigney, vice president of sales and events at Aspen Skiing Co.
“It’s totally transformed January,” he said, noting that January is now as busy, if not busier than February ” and rivals March.
Local lodging managers said that the coming weekend looked strong, with several saying they were on track to repeat last year’s business from the event.
Scott Olpin, general manager of the Molly Gibson Lodge and Hotel Aspen, called bookings “pretty strong,” and said they were comparable to 2008 bookings, so far. At the St. Regis Aspen, Ben Mollere, director of sales and marketing, called the week ahead “very solid.”
“It’s as strong as it was last year,” he said.
Many lodging establishments are filled for the Winter X Games, or nearly, by corporate bookings. Several hundred workers come in for the event, Rigney said. For example, at the Inn at Aspen, at the base of the event, nearly all the rooms are booked by ESPN ” and have been for nearly all of January.
And while a few rooms will sleep crew members, most will be turned into production rooms, said John Rivers, reservations manager for the Inn at Aspen. Many workers will head to outlying hotels, such as the Limelight Lodge, where, according to Eve Hogan, director of sales and marketing, ESPN and Monster Energy (the sports drink) will occupy 80 percent of the rooms for the Winter X Games.
The downvalley trickle-down effect seems to be holding this year as well, though many hotels said visitors heading to the games seem to be booking later. At the Aspenalt Lodge in Basalt, General Manager Chris Szczelina said that, while the lodge would normally sell out for the Winter X Games, “we’re just not there yet.”
But he expected that the lodge might well sell out, echoing a widely held observation that this year, last-minute reservations are more common in general.
At the Days Inn in Carbondale, Brenda Davis, working at the front desk, said the hotel normally fills during a Winter X Games weekend. It’s the Aspen event for which the motel does the most business, she said.
This year, the hotel was about 70 percent full for the weekend, as of Monday. But Davis, too, expected it might fill, echoing Szczelina’s observation that travelers are tending to book later this year.
“People aren’t planning ahead as much,” she said. “That’s kind of every weekend.”
Even as far away as Glenwood Springs, hotel managers were expecting additional business from the Winter X Games. At the Hampton Inn in Glenwood Springs, front desk manager Bill Dillon said the hotel is picking up business from business travelers, such as charter pilots, who would normally book in Aspen.
“Right now, we’re looking at limited availability, expecting to be full for the weekend,” he said.
At both the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express in Glenwood Springs (owned by the same company), management wasn’t leaving a fully booked weekend to chance. They had dropped the rate for a room during the games by $50 compared to last year, said Matthew Doyle, general manager for the Holiday Inn Express.
“We’re trying to capture that guest that isn’t sure,” he said.
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