Steamboat July tourism ahead of 2009

Summer weekend visitors wait for last-minute deals

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— July travel at mountain resorts is up about 10 percent from last year, and Steamboat Springs’ forecast is following close behind.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expects to see 7,600 visitors check into local lodging Saturday night. That’s down steeply from July 17, when the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament pushed tourism to 12,000 visitors. But 7,600 visitors this weekend would be about 8.5 percent ahead of the corresponding Saturday in 2009.

Bob Milne, of Steamboat Resorts, said his property management company is up 9 percent in revenues from last summer, with the positive trend supported by occupancy levels and average daily room rates.

“We’re not setting the world on fire, but we’re happy to be where we are,” Milne said.

Across the mountain resorts, July has been stronger year over year than June.

“Despite a slow beginning in May and an anemic June, strength in summer reservations is showing up with increases in both occupancy and nightly rate during July and August,” Ralf Garrison said this week.

Garrison is the author of the monthly Mountain Travel Research Program, which gathers tourism data from 265 property management companies controlling 24,000 rooms in 15 mountain resort towns across Colo­­rado, U­­tah, Cali­­fornia and Ore­­gon.

This weekend marks the first of two weekends of Triple Crown World Series youth baseball tournaments in Steamboat.

Steamboat’s lodg­­­ing properties are expected to be 55 percent full, and the lodging barometer indicates that mountain condos will be 47 percent full. But Milne said occupancy levels could be spotty from property to property. He expects the

mid-range condos at The Lodge to be 80 percent full this weekend. And, he added, the 48 luxury condos in the rental pool at Trailhead Lodge have enjoyed occupancy of about 95 percent all summer.

The lodging barometer shows that 900 weekend visitors made plans to visit Steamboat after its Wednesday publication date July 14, and Milne said his properties have seen an unusual number of guests arrive at condominium front desks without reservations all summer.

“A lot of our business has been last minute on the weekend,” he said. “We’re used to two or three (walk-ups), but we have an unusual number of people showing up at the front desk of The Lodge or Timber Run and saying, ‘We’d like to stay for two nights. What do you have?’”

Garrison said the traveling public is playing a game of two steps forward and one step back this summer as economic markets have sent the Consumer Confidence Index on a bumpy ride.

Milne said he sees room for optimism in the coming ski season.

“I’m the most optimistic I’ve been in two years,” he said. “I’m finally encouraged. Our group sales department is doing a killer job, and our group business for winter is looking really good. That’s significant because it’s usually an indicator” of more robust independent travel.

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