Advance bookings outpace last year
Last year the snow arrived early. A couple feet fell by Halloween and the resorts got a head start in November. This year, an early snowstorm was not in cards, and local resorts and hotels say fewer travelers will be rolling into town this week compared to last year. Tony Broadbent, guest services manager for Park City’s Holiday Inn Express, said the hotel was filled near capacity last year for Thanksgiving and this year it is about 60 percent booked. The reverse is true for Christmas bookings. Broadbent said the hotel was approximately 70 percent booked this time last year for Christmas week. This year, Christmas week is already 90 percent full. According to Bill Malone, executive director of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, advance bookings at the resorts and hotels are either on pace or surpassing last year. "Obviously snow and how much and when will have a lot to do with getting where we are today to the final numbers," Malone said. Broadbent said the Holiday Inn Express sold out 50 percent faster for the Sundance Film Festival this year and reservations for the entire month of January are up by 25 percent
Kim McClelland, president of Deer Valley Lodging, said last season’s early reservations surpassed all previous seasons for the Deer Valley Lodges and he figured it would be a hard year to beat. But now, even with a lack of snow, he said the Deer Valley Lodges’ reservations are up five percent over last year. McClelland said December bookings are up 6.5 percent, the week prior to Christmas is up 10 percent and guests have even started booking April vacations already. McClelland attributes these reservation increases to last year’s blockbuster winter.
"After you have a really good snow year, the next year early bookings are always really good," he said. "There is always a ripple effect that seems to affect bookings."
Jim Simmons, general manager of the Silver King Hotel at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, said the hotel’s advance bookings are the best they have been in five years. He said the ski season reservations are up 28 percent over last year, and there are even steady bookings for the first week in January, a traditionally slow time period.
"We are pacing well ahead for that week, which is unusual especially at this time frame," he said. "To have good bookings already for a period that is typically slow, is a good indication for how the season will pan out."
Simmons said Silver Kings bookings for the first two weeks in December also have increased in the past two years.
"I think it’s safe to say that people seem to be traveling more based on booking trends we’ve seen," Simmons added.
Kevin Thorstenson, vice president and general manager of Hotel Park City, said Hotel Park City has experienced steady increases since it opened in 2002. He said room revenue increased by 30 percent from 2004 to 2005 and Dec. 18-24 is already sold out this year.
Rob Slettom, president of Identity Properties, a company that manages 250 Park City rental units, said Thanksgiving and early December bookings for Identity Properties are slower than last year due to a lack of snow. He said January and February are ahead of last year and March bookings are about the same.
"We had great snow last year, and we are getting a spin off from that," Slettom said.
Slettom said Identity Properties is seeing more people leaving on Dec. 30 or the 31 instead of staying in town for New Year’s this year. Due to this trend, Identity Properties is starting to put together long weekend New Year’s packages to keep those dates booked.
Malone said phone volume for lodging reservations remain active and there is an emerging booking trend for the week prior to Christmas.
"The patterns are that we are getting closer and closer to having two solid weeks of Christmas," he said.
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Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts said the sales of season passes rose sharply through the middle of September as compared to the previous year.