Thursday, December 12, 2002
Steamboat Springs Tourism in Steamboat Springs on Saturday could lag 1,000 visitors behind last year on the corresponding Saturday unless Thursday's snowstorm spurs close-in reservations.
The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association project 6,802 visitors booked into local lodging properties Saturday night. That compares to 7,908 on Dec. 15, 2001.
The trend will hold through Wednesday when 5,000 visitors are expected in town, again about 1,000 fewer than last year. However, the situation is expected to reverse itself by Saturday, Dec. 21, when early bookings bounce back above 7,000 people. That would be 700 more than last year.
One condominium manager said Thursday he expects his property to do fine during the holidays, but the balance of the ski season is in doubt.
"Christmas looks OK, but as far as January, February and March go, people are just holding off," Keith Skytta said.
Skytta is the manager of Snowflower Condominiums, with 36 units just across the parking lot from the Steamboat Gondola. Of the total, 15 of the condos are studio units and 12 are four-bedroom units.
He said there are periods during the first quarter of 2003 when reservations are very strong. But they are counterbalanced by periods of softness.
"Our advance bookings at Snowflower are way down for the next three months," Skytta said.
Skytta believes ski vacationers are edgy about the economy, the possibility of war and upheaval in the airline industry.
Property managers are trying to cope with a trend that reflects vacationers booking shorter stays, he added. Skiers who come for four days instead of six leave gaps in his booking calendar that are difficult to fill, Skytta said. They also push his average number of "complete cleans," or the number of times the housekeeping staff must turn a condo, up from once a week to 1.25 or 1.5 times a week.
The lodging barometer is not a scientific survey but an informal poll of representative lodging properties meant to give resort managers a gauge of the staffing levels they will need for the upcoming weekend.
It shows that downtown properties will be the quietest this Saturday, at 28 percent occupancy rate. Mountain hotels are projected to be 49 percent full and the condos at the mountain will see occupancy rates averaging 41 percent.
Mountain hotels are already 59 percent booked for Dec. 21.
Year-over-year comparisons of occupancy rates are skewed because Steamboat has added 183 short-term pillows to its lodging base since last winter and more than 1,500 pillows since the winter of 2000-01.
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