'No vacancy' a common sight

Hotels, condos expect 87 percent occupancy tonight

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It's another busy weekend for lodges in Steamboat Springs. Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association officials expect 13,200 visitors -- more than the city's population -- to stay at hotels and condos tonight. That's 87 percent of Steamboat's lodging capacity and 200 more people than were expected last year at this time.

"It's just been really busy for us this summer," said Jennifer Austin, the director of revenue management at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. "We were sold out Thursday and Friday, and it's been pretty much sold out all the previous weekends, too."

Filling the Sheraton's rooms this weekend are soccer teams, wedding guests, family reunion attendees and vacationers. More people than expected also have been attending conferences at the Sheraton, which has swelled hotel booking.

"Attendance levels at the conferences have been so high that the groups end up getting more rooms than they originally contracted for," Austin said.

Occupancy today at hotels near the base of the ski area, such as the Sheraton, increased 7 percent from last year, from 86 percent to 93 percent. The pattern of booking also has changed with people reserving rooms more spontaneously and with shorter notice.

"Most of the rooms are being booked one or two weeks beforehand, and we've been getting more walk-ins. Usually the bookings aren't so last minute," Austin said.

She attributes the greater number of lodgers to rebounding traveler confidence.

"The economy has been improving, and travelers are more willing to spend money and travel," Austin said.

Downtown hotels are equally busy with 96 percent occupancy expected today. The Alpiner Lodge, for example, also has no vacancies for the weekend.

"It's been like this every weekend this summer. It subsides on the weekdays, but we still get walk-ins," Alpiner Lodge owner Mary Latek said.

One-quarter of the people staying at the Alpiner are in Steamboat for the Triple Crown softball tournaments, she said.

"The rest are just people wanting to hang out in Steamboat Springs," she said.

Busy hotels translate to bustling restaurants, and the Cantina is no exception.

"It's been pretty busy, and we've been happy with the turnout," general manager Sara Stoedter said. "Many of the people have been here for Triple Crown."

Restaurants and hotels don't expect the flow of visitors to ebb anytime soon. Already, the number of rooms reserved for August at the Sheraton is greater than at this time last year, Austin said.

--To reach Kristin Bjornsen, call 879-1502

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