Visitor numbers rival last year's

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Lodging business in Steamboat Springs tonight is expected to rival last year's numbers, with some downtown motels having been booked for two weeks and others preparing for last-minute reservations.

About 11,000 people are projected to stay in hotels, motels and condominiums in Steamboat this evening, occupying about 73 percent of lodging in Steamboat.

That's about 400 fewer people than were expected the same Saturday last year, according to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's Lodging Barometer. The barometer is not a scientific survey but a way for employers and managers to plan for business.

With the holiday falling on a Sunday, lodging businesses reported the most reservations for Friday and tonight.

The two nights were completely booked at the Rabbit Ears Motel downtown by mid-June, manager and owner Greg Koehler said. The motel's location across from the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center, as well as near the bike path and river, make it appealing to visitors, he said.

The Western Lodge downtown was about 75 percent full Friday, but co-owner Kathi Guler expected it would be booked by today. She said most of the reservations were made last minute -- a trend noted by several lodging businesses.

On Friday, the Sheraton Steamboat Resort was expecting between 60 percent and 70 percent occupancy tonight, about a 10 percent drop from last year, though general manager Chuck Porter anticipated some of that would be made up with late reservations or walk-in visitors.

"The short-term demand has been very strong this year," he said."We can't always rely on the long-term reservations."

While Koehler and Guler said business this summer has been comparable to last year, Porter was among those who saw more visitors -- mainly because of many events in June, including the new Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat mountain bike race, Ride the Rockies and the Bicycle Tour Colorado.

The Colorado Municipal League conference brought about 800 people into town in June, and the Superior Livestock conference is expected to bring in about 500 people this week, Porter and chamber spokeswoman Riley Polumbus said.

"We're in Energizer Bunny mode here at the chamber," said Polumbus, who also is preparing for Rainbow Weekend on July 10 and 11.

"Rainbow Weekend is traditionally our most popular weekend to come to Steamboat in the summer," Polumbus said.

Though the barometer predicted lodging business July 10 will be down about 10 percent from last year, Riley said reservations this week may bring visitor numbers close to about 10,000 -- what they were last year.

Koehler said the Rabbit Ears Motel has been booked for July 9 and 10 for two weeks. Guler anticipates the Western Lodge will be full by the end of next week.

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