Tourism outlook remains unclear | SteamboatToday.com

Tourism outlook remains unclear

Properties see fewer advance customers

Blythe Terrell

— Tourism industry observers are keeping quiet about where bookings stand for the ski season, and some lodging managers say it’s tough to tell how things will play out.

Sandy Evans Hall, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association executive vice president, deferred giving a comment until the Chamber’s lodging barometer kicks in.

“That really won’t start until next weekend to give us any kind of comparative data,” Evans Hall said. She would not offer anecdotal information about where Steamboat stands so far.

Predictions have varied.

Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said at a meeting last week that the Steamboat Ski Area was looking at a 30 percent to 40 percent decrease in bookings, which Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. countered was too high.

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said last week that he would not give a figure, adding that the numbers changed too often to mean anything.

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Holiday Inn General Manager Barbara Robinson said the property hadn’t seen a percentage drop in bookings.

“The booking pattern is very close in again, meaning people don’t book far in advance, and it’s a little hard to tell right now,” Robinson said. “The election year always seems to fall a little outside the pattern. People first want to see what happens before they make a commitment.”

The Holiday Inn is smaller than some of the major properties in town, she noted, which could make trends more difficult to detect. Robinson predicted a strong holiday season.

“Christmas will be very busy for the town,” she said. “We’re still working on some promotions to attract people for January, February and March.”

Robinson suggested that she thinks the Holiday Inn could draw more business during the economic downturn than the higher-end properties.

John Curnow, general manager at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, said it was tough to compare bookings to last season because the hotel has been restructured.

“For us, it’s a little difficult to tell altogether,” Curnow said. “We’re going to be a new hotel when we open on Dec. 4, with about 85 less rooms than we had last winter because of conversions into time share.”

Those time-share units, the Villas at the Sheraton, are doing well, he said.

They’re “obviously sold out for the Christmas period,” Curnow said. “There’s 21 in that new building, and we expect them to be popular this winter.”

He said the Sheraton also was seeing fewer advance bookings for the season. January looks good, Curnow said, adding that February also was picking up.

The Sheraton is participating in Ski Corp. promotions. Steamboat just needs a “snow message,” Curnow said.

“As soon as it starts snowing, the phones will start ringing,” he said.