Steamboat hotels have empty rooms during USA Pro Cycling Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat hotels have empty rooms during USA Pro Cycling Challenge

— Steamboat's inn keepers are generally enthusiastic about the exposure the resort will receive from next week's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, but they aren't counting on a bonanza at check-in time.

Bea Westwater's downtown hotel, the Alpiner Lodge, is within sight of the finish line on Sixth Street, but she still has ample rooms available.

"When I talked to the Chamber (early in the week), I told them I was 40 percent full for (Aug. 26), and they said I was among the best. I'm now at 75 percent," said Westwater, who manages the lodge. "I'm totally baffled."

The Alpiner offers 32 rooms and one suite. It is adjacent to Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, and Westwater has sent business to the bike shop for years while they have reciprocated. She also has consistently marketed to a select list of bicycling clubs throughout the years, so it came as a surprise that her marketing efforts highlighting the Pro Cycling Challenge have met with a tepid response.

"Most of my business on Friday has nothing to do with the bike race," Westwater said.

From smaller properties like the Alpiner to large condominium management companies, the word is coming back that the cycling stage race may not have the immediate tourism impact that has been hoped for.

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"We won't really get a clear picture until early next week. We could see a lot of last minute reservations," said Blair McNamara, vice president of marketing for Resort Co. "But this is an event that rides in and out of town in a short period of time."

A one-day event isn't built to have a significant impact on the summer's tourism — ideally guests would stay for at least three days before a management company has to clean the condo, McNamara said.

However, the international television exposure dovetails with his goal of strengthening awareness of his company's properties in Steamboat, Vail and Breckenridge.

In order to strengthen Steamboat's bid for a stop on the Pro Cycling Challenge, the Resort Co. contributed 45 room nights, all close to the ski base and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and The Steamboat Grand.

The Steamboat Grand contributed 170 room nights and Vice President and General Manager Mike Lomas said that didn't leave him with a whole lot of rooms left for what is clearly an overnight phenomenon Friday night. However, supporting the race and its tie-in with Steamboat's growing cycling initiatives was an important step to take, he said.

Barbara Robinson, general manager of the Holiday Inn of Steamboat Springs, said she expects her property along the route for Saturday morning's stage from Steamboat to Breckenridge to fill up by Friday night, but she's not overwhelmed by the demand.

"Reservations came in gradually. I had anticipated stronger demand," Robinson said. "I don't see it as runaway demand yet."

The announcement that the Colorado Department of Transportation will permit camping on the side of the highway along the course also could affect lodging numbers. However, Robinson was unconcerned.

"We've always seen a correlation between biking and camping," she said. "It's not a negative. It will bring people to Steamboat who wouldn't have come to stay in a hotel."

Robinson, who rides her bicycle to work and along U.S. Highway 40 to Haymaker Golf Course, thinks cyclists already are gathering in Steamboat.

"It's obvious there are a number of cyclists I've never seen in Steamboat before," she said.

It's apparent that when the big cycling event comes to Steamboat on Friday, it will bring more value in national and international exposure than it does in room nights.

"From a community standpoint, we need to step up and play our part," McNamara said. "And from a tourism standpoint, it truly is great for the entire state."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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