Close-in bookings the trend

More visitors making last-minute arrangements


— Eleven months after the fact, the events of Sept. 11 may still be impacting summer tourism in Steamboat Springs.

Susan Ghysels of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association said her office is still detecting an unusual number of visitors who are booking vacations and long weekends close to their date of arrival.

"I don't think anyone knows exactly what to attribute it to. But my gut feeling is that they are watching what's going on in the world before they make plans," Ghysels said. Nationwide, the travel industry noticed travelers making close-in bookings as the nation's air system returned to near normal several months after Sept. 11.

Ghysels said the close-in bookings are skewing the numbers the chamber publishes in its weekly lodging barometer. Follow-up polls after July 4 and Rainbow Weekend (July 13-14) indicated the projections in the weekly barometer may have underestimated actual tourism by about 12 percent because of the trend of last-minute bookings.

"This summer people are making travel reservations closer to their arrival dates than ever," Ghysels said. "While the lodging barometer may show that reservations appear down, they may ultimately end up being equal to, or greater than, last year."

The chamber lodging barometer was never really intended to be an accurate measurement of tourism in Steamboat. It is an unscientific poll released every Wednesday. The original intent was to provide resort managers a tool to gauge their weekly staffing needs and to help kitchen managers, for example, decide how much food to have on hand.

This week the barometer projects Steamboat lodging properties will actually be busier Aug. 10 than on the corresponding Saturday last year. The barometer projects there will be 12,106 people staying in local lodges compared to 11,716 last year.

Last weekend was a different story, at least in the projections. The barometer anticipated 12,106 people in town, down from 13,473 projected for Aug. 4, 2001.

The primary factor driving those numbers remains unchanged from last year. Steamboat hosts Triple Crown girls fastpitch softball again this weekend. The tournament would not factor significantly into the late booking trend.

Steamboat's bed base of 18,917 pillows is projected to be 80 percent full this Saturday night, the same as last year. However, Ghysels cautioned that year-over-year comparisons on percent occupancy can be misleading because the number of rental units changes from year to year. The resort has 600 more pillows than it did last year and more than 1,300 more than it did in 2000.


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