Properties could see drop

Lodging Barometer expected to be low

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— Steamboat lodging properties could see up to a 33 percent drop in business this Saturday over the same date last year.

The Chamber Resort Association's Lodging Barometer, which is not a scientific survey, projects there will be 4,773 visitors in town Saturday night compared to 7,030 on the corresponding date a year ago.

A big portion of the dropoff can be attributed to the fact that last year Triple Crown brought a national adult slow pitch softball tournament here Aug. 23-26, chamber spokeswoman Susan Ghysels said.

National and Front Range media coverage of the fires alternately blazing and smoldering to the north and south of the city are also having a dampening effect on tourism this weekend.

Ghysels said her office is fielding calls from people concerned about the amount of smoke in the Yampa Valley. She said the chamber staff has been able to reassure many of those people.

Chuck Porter said his hotel has had some phone calls form people wishing to cancel reservations. His property is not altering its cancellation policy due to the fires that range from 16 to 35 miles in distance from the city of Steamboat Springs. His staff is informing guests that there are many periods when no smoke at all is visible from the fires.

"We've certainly had calls from people with existing reservations who were concerned about smoke," Porter said. "One group even asked if they were at risk of being trapped here. It's truly unfortunate for Steamboat that we're being identified as having the fires almost in our backyards.

"A former employee who lives in Boulder called to tell us the Front Range media are exaggerating what the situation is in Steamboat Springs. I guess they have to have a reference point, and we're it."

Ghysels said for every potential visitor the chamber staff is able to reassure, there are probably others who change plans without ever calling. Porter agreed.

"We're very concerned about people who are not calling, even more than those who are calling," Porter said.

The chamber has also determined through spot checks on key weekends this summer that the barometer has been about 12 percent low on its tourism projections.

Chamber officials attribute the discrepancy to a trend toward late bookings among the traveling public. The Lodging Barometer is released on Wednesdays to give employers and managers a tool for planning staffing levels chamber spokeswoman Susan Ghysels said. The trend this summer has seen Front Range families making spontaneous close-in plans to visit Steamboat for the weekend.

The Lodging Barometer for midweek shows there will be about 3,350 people in town overnight Aug. 28. that's only about 25 fewer than on the same date last year.

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