For the third consecutive month, actual lodging occupancy was up among participating western resort mountain communities. November 2010 was up 14.4 percent from last November while room rates were up 2.2 percent according to the most recent data released by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP).* The results are consistent with the trend of the past six months where June-November 2010 was up 8.4 percent from the same period last year.
“With the winter’s booking season well underway and the Christmas season imminent, there is some reason for holiday cheer about the 2010-2011 winter season,” offers Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “Despite continued economic uncertainty and a buyer’s market more driven by price than brand loyalty, positive signs do exist. Good early season snow brought out strong early season visitor numbers while pacing and bookings are positive at many of MTRIP’s subscribing destinations.”
Subtle but positive news was also evident in the forward projections for the mountain destinations. Currently, bookings as of Nov. 30 for December 2010 are up 4.9 percent compared to the same period last year. For the next six months, overall bookings are up 2.5 percent with the strongest gains in March and May. Reservations taking during the month of November for the remainder of the ski season (through April 2011) were also up 7.5 percent compared to 2009. Lodging rates remain practically flat compared to last year—down 0.2 percent for December and up one percent for the remainder of the season—indicating that consumers continue to secure attractive rates at mountain destinations but further discounting is not apparent.
According to the report, broader economic news may have influenced the continued uptick in mountain vacations and planning. Nationally, retailers had their best single month in two years, inflation remains low, the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) edged up 8.4 percent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average being 6.9 percent ahead of last November were cited as positive indicators. On the down side, the unemployment rate increased unexpectedly in November to 9.8 percent.
“Even though unemployment remains the single most worrisome concern, a survey of CEO’s at America’s largest companies suggests an increase in hiring over the next six months, which is prompting some major economists to revise their growth estimates upward,” explained Tom Foley, MTRiP research analyst. “While caution has been the buzzword on the economy for some time, we are approaching a crossroads that could signal recovery at the consumer level.”
The report goes on to predict slow overall growth for mountain destinations that will likely be inconsistent with wide variances between regional destinations and among individual properties.
“Growth in occupancy is leading our optimistic charge and early signs of rate stability are evident, but not to be overestimated,” cautioned Garrison. “Early season snow generated a palpable buzz and action among skiers and snowboarders last month which always helps and while the season is far from over, indications are favorable,” he concluded.