Steamboat lodging occupancy to be up slightly this weekend before dipping next week

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— The weekend forecast is for sunny skies and more overnight visitors to Steamboat Springs than stayed here during the corresponding weekend in January 2012.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s weekly lodging barometer predicts 10,600 guests will stay in nightly lodging properties Saturday. That equates to 71 percent occupancy and a 10 percent higher rate than the ninth weekend of the 2011-12 ski season.

However, the lodging barometer also forecasts a dip in overnight guests midweek and next weekend as compared with 2012. There are 6,000 visitors expected to stay in Steamboat Springs hotels, motels and condos Wednesday and 7,000 on Jan. 26. Both of those numbers represent a decrease from the corresponding days last winter.

The Chamber’s lodging barometer is based on survey data from local lodging properties. Its primary function is to help businesses determine staffing levels during the winter and summer tourism seasons. Actual lodging occupancy levels tend to increase from the forecast levels as a result of last-minute bookings.

After an abundance of snow in mid- to late December, Mother Nature has dealt most of Colorado’s mountain resorts a dry start to 2013. But according to the Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP, that December snowfall boosted end-of-year occupancy at ski resorts and had a significant impact on reservations through the rest of the ski season.

The end-of-year boost appears to have been true in Steamboat Springs, which experienced its highest occupancy levels of the past three seasons during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period. According to MTRiP’s most recent report, the booking pace in December for Western U.S. mountain resort communities was up 10.4 percent for folks scheduling trips to ski towns through May 2013. January bookings saw a 3.5 percent increase from 2012. February bookings at resort properties surveyed by MTRiP are up 8.6 percent, but March and April bookings remain down from last year.

MTRiP’s data is collected by sampling 260 property management companies in 16 mountain resort destinations in Colorado, Utah, California and Oregon.

Other factors playing into the pace of bookings include a drop in the Consumer Confidence Index driven in part by the fiscal cliff and other national economic issues as well as an increase in crude oil prices, according to MTRiP.

“We anticipate that markets will continue to be vulnerable in the coming months as unemployment, consumer confidence and investor confidence will all be impacted by upcoming budget issues in Washington,” MTRiP Operating Manager Tom Foley said in the organization’s latest trend report. “Although the national inflation rate remains at a comfortable 1.8 percent, that rate is still higher than current increases in household earnings, and when coupled with the payroll tax increase that took effect Dec. 31, it is uncertain how much impact that will have on consumer retail and travel decisions.”

To reach Brent Boyer, call 970-871-4221 or email bboyer@SteamboatToday.com

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