Tourism softens up at mid-term

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— The summer tourism season is approaching the midway point with mixed results. Saturdays in June were on a par with 2006, but numbers have lagged for four consecutive weeks, according to an informal poll conducted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The Chamber is projecting 10,300 visitors will spend Saturday night in area lodging properties, but that number is 1,700 behind a similar projection for the corresponding Saturday in July 2006.

The Chamber's weekly Lodging Barometer is a nonscientific poll meant to help property managers and restaurant owners gauge their staffing needs. For the first time this year, the Chamber is publishing actual visitation numbers from the previous year's figures. For example, last summer's projection of 12,000 visitors for July 22 turned out to be 12,400 actual visitors as late reservations and walk-ins arrived in town.

Keith Skytta, who manages the Snowflower Condominiums at the base of the ski area, said he knew in advance a neighboring construction project would impact his property. He focused his marketing efforts on Triple Crown adult softball and youth baseball tournaments.

"We did a heck of a campaign because we knew we would lose a lot of our traditional business," Skytta said. "Sports teams aren't bothered by the construction because they aren't here during the day."

Steamboat is expecting 110 Triple Crown teams in town next week. However, early projections for Wednesday and Saturday, July 28, anticipate business may be off substantially despite Triple Crown's efforts to load the bases. The Lodging Barometer expects 9,500 people in town Wednesday compared to 10,700 last year, and 9,200 visitors Saturday, July 28, compared to 11,800 last year.

From year to year, large events and group business can influence year-to-year comparisons.

Skytta said the heart of the summer would be strong with Triple Crown business at Snowflower.

"We're at about 90 percent occupancy right now through Aug. 11," he said.

The Internet travel site www.discovercolorado.com shows some condominium properties in Steamboat are offering a third night free for visitors who book a two-night stay. Others are offering incentives for the Steamboat Wine Festival in early August.

Mountain hotels are expected to be 61 percent full this weekend. Mountain condos will be busier at 71 percent occupancy, and U.S. Highway 40 lodges will be 67 percent full.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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