Group visitor sales boost Park City visitation year-round
Lodging industry leaders look to group travelers to bring some lifeblood to Park City during the shoulder seasons.
Last year, several groups delivered. The Park City Chamber/Bureau recently reported an all-time record for overnight group bookings during 2018. Summer and fall events helped boost occupancy during Park City’s slower times of year, particularly in June, September and October, said Tonya Sweeten, the vice president of group sales for the Chamber/Bureau. Businesses in town were able to benefit from the bump.
Sweeten said the Chamber/Bureau helped book 195 groups in Park City hotels, which is up from 152 in 2017. The groups, which include people in town for corporate meetings, conferences and conventions, helped generate $10 million in room revenue, compared to $8.9 million in 2017, according to a press release. Several hotels in town reported that the group segments made up more of their sales than the leisure segment, or individual guests.
Dirk Beal, director of sales for Deer Valley Resort Lodging, said that was the case for several of the resort’s hotels. He also said the group segment is growing at a faster rate than the leisure market. Last year, the company had “significantly more” group business than leisure business, and he expects that to continue.
Beal is pleased to see the increasing group sales. He said the groups help the resort have more consistent business all year long, which means the hotels are able to keep their staff year-round.
“It keeps on a lot of key staff, so we can have a better quality of service because we don’t have to ramp up and ramp down just for the leisure winter guests,” he said.
Sweeten said this is the case for several businesses around town, not just for the lodging industry. Restaurants and retailers who serve visitors are able to maintain staff when visitation is consistent. In a town where employees are hard to come by, worker retention can make or break a business.
“The last thing that those folks want to do is let a good employee go because they can’t pay them for a few months, and they know they might not ever get that good employee back,” she said.
Beal said the group visitors are also beneficial because they book further in advance than leisure guests. People who plan the meetings tend to have a much longer lead time, up to three years in advance in some cases. That allows the hotels to better project their occupancy in the future and have more security, he said.
In comparison, leisure guests in the summer and fall book two to three months in advance, Sweeten said.
Once those groups come into town, they also tend to spend more, she said. They also tend to travel in shuttles, so they do not bring as much added traffic.
“It’s not as big of an impact on the city as the leisure business can be,” Sweeten said.
Sweeten said the booming economy is one of the reasons group sales are up so much.
“Corporations, when they are doing well, are going to meet,” she said.
Companies have money, and so do people, so they are more likely to spend it. She saw the reverse effects during the Great Recession, when group conference and convention numbers plummeted.
Park City is benefiting from a strong economy because it has also become a more desired destination, Sweeten said.
“A few years ago, a lot of meeting planners still didn’t know about Park City, or if they did, they thought of us only as a winter destination,” she said.
She said the Chamber/Bureau has been pumping in resources over the last few years to invite meeting planners to Park City, and to send its group sales team to trade shows. In fact, the entire group sales team has expanded over time. When Sweeten joined the organization 12 years ago, she said she was the only employee in the group sales department. Now, she is on a team of five.
Park City is also attractive because of its location in the mountains. Companies are placing more emphasis on health and wellness, and a conference in the mountains with outdoor activities is often more appealing than one in a city, Sweeten said.
Companies are also looking to Park City for its incentive travel. Leaders will incentivize employees to reach goals and reward them with a trip to a destination. Sweeten said she has seen this segment grow in Park City as well. She hopes it, and other group sales, will continue to flourish.