Steamboat Springs The skiers have all gone home to weed their tulip beds and play golf, leaving Steamboat's resort condominiums empty until June. But the motels on U.S. 40/Lincoln Avenue are still hustling for business.
Awan Amin, manager of the Days Inn at Walton Creek Road and U.S. 40, said the biggest season of the year is still ahead for her 29-unit motel.
"Nowadays, summers are busier than winter over here," Amin said. "Right now we're a little quiet because construction isn't that good. Compared to last year, we're not as busy."
Amin said construction workers, who typically check into the hotel for a week have been a big part of the motel's business.
Ann Cox has managed the Harbor Hotel for 13 years and said it's no surprise to her that lodging properties are quiet right now.
"It's pretty slow right now," Cox said. "Financially, May is the worst month of the year. Most of our business this time of year is repeat business" from business travelers. "It doesn't pick up until June and the first Triple Crown (softball) tournament."
The Harbor Hotel has 113 units, including some small condominiums.
Travelers this time of year tend to avoid getting off the interstate highways to the north and south that pass Steamboat by, Cox said, because of the unpredictability of the weather and driving conditions.
Cox said the challenge for downtown motels is getting travelers bound for Steamboat from Denver to drive beyond the phalanx of name-brand motels on the city's south side, and visit downtown.
Larry Wheeler, manager of the Holiday Inn, has been in his position for almost seven years, but his lodging property has been on Steamboat's south side for three decades. For most of those years, the Holiday Inn was the only motel at that entrance to the city.
Downtown motels have their own set of advantages over motels and hotels on the edge of town, Wheeler pointed out.
Traveling salesmen who come through Steamboat regularly enjoy the advantage of being downtown and enjoying the restaurants, shops and attractions without having to get back in their cars.
Wheeler said his property has a group of loyal business travelers who come back time after time.
"We've been here for 31 years and we've established that business over time. We really do cater to our regular guests."
Wheeler said his property offers a full range of services from an in-house restaurant, to the ability to send and receive faxes and plug into an Internet port in the guest rooms.
"They can put everything on their corporate credit card," he added.
Wheeler credited the Rabbit Ears Motel with being the other property in Steamboat that has really succeeded in building a loyal clientele of business travelers.
The period from April 15 to May 15 is in a dead heat with the month of November for the quietest time of year at his motel, Wheeler said. This year, he is taking encouragement from the fact that, thus far, May business is off only a small amount.
"This year, what we're pleased to see in May is that we're only off a very little bit," Wheeler said.
Two significant changes have taken place locally since last spring, Wheeler said.
One is that major commercial construction projects such as Yampa Valley Medical Center, the Steamboat Springs High School remodel and addition and the Steamboat Grand Hotel have all concluded.
The motel/hotel business generated by those projects went well beyond tradesmen, Wheeler said.
"It's not just labor, it's a lot of white collar," Wheeler said. "The hospital doesn't just get new pieces of equipment. Somebody comes in to set up the new equipment."
The Steamboat Grand itself is adding a new level of competition for room nights that many people might not have anticipated, Wheeler said.
At first glance, the Grand looks like a luxury resort property. But the hotel is offering discounted rates of less than $80 on the Internet and marketing itself aggressively on the Front Range.
Given the circumstances the major commercial projects of the past few years have been subtracted from the spring market in Steamboat, and the Steamboat Grand is competing for all kinds of room nights, Wheeler said flat business, or business that is slightly off, is acceptable this month.