Walk-in visitors on the rise

Innkeepers to host 10,000 Saturday

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Rainbow Weekend isn't projected to be quite as busy for area lodging properties as the recent Fourth of July holiday. Still, Steamboat innkeepers will be watching to see if walk-up business can push tourism numbers higher.

The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association projects that 10,100 people will check into hotels, motels and condos Saturday night. That compares with 11,400 on July 5. However, the actual number for last Saturday grew by 4 percent after the barometer was released July 2.

Angela Robinson, general manager of the Hampton Inn, said going into last weekend, her 68-room property (48 suites and 20 traditional hotel rooms) still had rooms to rent on the morning of July 4 and was looking at 80 percent occupancy for July 5. However, walk-ins turned that picture around and the property was booked solid both nights.

"I talked to everyone who came to the front desk," Robinson said. "Many of them were from Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. I asked the people from Colorado Springs why they drove past other mountain resorts to get to Steamboat. They said they knew it would be greener, the weather would be better and they knew there would be fireworks. They're coming for the Steamboat experience with the rodeo and everything else."

Robinson also was impressed that last weekend's walk-ups weren't bargain hunting. Her staff quoted rates of $129 to $149 and the guests didn't hesitate.

"They didn't even blink," Robinson said. The majority of her accommodations sleep six to eight people.

Walk-ups will be less of an issue at the Hampton Inn this weekend, Robinson said, because she's already booked. She's pleased by the number of two-night reservations because they reduce housekeeping costs relative to room nights.

The lodging barometer shows that mountain hotels will be 70 percent full Saturday night compared with 66 percent for the corresponding Saturday last year. Downtown properties are the percentage winner for the second week in a row; they are projected to be virtually full at 98 percent occupancy. That compares with 66 percent July 3, 2002.

The lodging category that has the most room this weekend is mountain condos, which are expected to be 55 percent occupied.

The Chamber's Riley Polumbus said Rainbow Weekend, with Art in the Park and the Balloon Rodeo, is traditionally one of Steamboat's strongest summer weekends.

"People plan ahead for this every year," Polumbus said. She said the availability of Strings in the Mountains concerts plus the free North Mississippi Allstars show at Howelsen Hill Saturday evening adds to the attraction.

The lodging barometer is not a scientific poll, but a casual survey meant to help businesses make decisions about staffing levels.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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