April showers hurt May numbers
Good riddance May. That’s how many in Park City’s lodging and restaurant industries feel. It typically ties with October for worst month for business, but because of the late snow and rain it appears to have been worse than usual.
If golf courses and biking trails aren’t open, people won’t be in town to go out to eat afterward, explained Park City Restaurant Association president Kevin Valaika.
If the weather isn’t good, it’s not fun to walk up and down Main Street, said Park City Area Lodging Association officer Teri Whitney.
Regionally, May was an exception to a spring that was posting lodging numbers consistently better than the previous year, according to the most recent report from the Mountain Travel Research Program.
That’s largely because of an April Easter and late snowfall, said report author Ralf Garrison earlier this week.
Good snowfall in March helped it beat out the previous year and an Easter early enough to be a ski weekend helped April. Next year’s Easter comes late after many resorts close and will be a challenge for the industry.
It’s possible the season as a whole could have done even better had heavy snowfall come earlier, he said. Destination skiers create a perception of snow conditions based on early snow. Even though the best storms of the winter came in March and April, a relatively dry December hurt advance reservations, Garrison explained.
The late storms attracted skiers, but many of them were day skiers or season-pass holders who don’t buy hotel rooms, he said.
Park City may have fared better than the region since the area pillow count tabulated by the Park City Chamber/Bureau consistently reported each week to be up about four percent from the same time last year.
Unfortunately, that was still only about 12 or 13 percent occupancy for several weeks this May.
A good May is one in which a lot of meetings and conventions are held in town, Whitney said.
Chamber/Bureau figures for that kind of business suggested the first two weeks of May brought about 300 people to town for events, but that declined sharply the last two weeks.
Park City Peaks sales manager Gay Lynn Costa said except for a few weddings the month was a disappointment on that front. Fortunately, many hotels get to look forward to youth athletic tournaments in the summer, she said. Now is a transition period between ski season and the tournaments.
Valaika said Park City Mountain Resort expanding its season by a week in April was a huge favor to the community and helped boost sales.
"The restaurants are really thankful," he said. "The late snowfall definitely brought us business."
Krista Parry, director of marketing and communications for PCMR said extending a week isn’t very profitable, but only makes sense when there’s that much snow on the slopes. About a third of the season’s snowfall came in the last three weeks.
Much like the winter season, lodging and restaurant businesses are now considering how to "add value" for summer. Valaika said his colleagues are getting really creative with the menus and drink offerings to entice people in.
To attract them after a hike, ride or golf game a meal has to be affordable; Park City eateries know that, he said.
That worked well this spring, said Maile Keone, vice president for marketing at VacationRoost.com. Late season promotions boosted April sales by 50 percent and was allowing May to trend at a 100 percent improvement, she said. Special promotions were helping her company springboard into the next season.
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