Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend gaining steam for Park City lodging industry
Sundance is still days away, but residents may notice more visitors than usual for a weekend leading into the film festival.
And for the Park City Chamber/Bureau, which has long labored to turn the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend into a premiere time to be in town, that is a very good thing. It’s what Bill Malone, the Chamber/Bureau’s president and CEO, envisioned when the Sundance Institute agreed as part of a long-term deal with City Hall to move the festival to slightly later in January in years it would overlap with the holiday, freeing up that weekend for ski vacationers.
That arrangement, signed in 2013, is already bearing fruit. The projected occupancy numbers are up about 10 percent over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend last year, which was the first time the festival was moved to avoid an overlap.
"We’re hearing good things not just from lodging and those taking reservations, but we’re also hearing about it from ski rental companies and others that they’re seeing a noticeable pick-up for this week," Malone said.
The Chamber/Bureau has been working feverishly to spread the word that the holiday is now open for ski vacationers. Large-scale advertising has focused on Southern California, where skiers can get away for a quick four- or five-day trip.
"We’ve actually had creative ads done that speak directly to that holiday," Malone said. "That’s kind of different for us — most of the time, our advertising is pretty much generic for the entire season."
The success of this season’s ad campaign is encouraging after last year’s efforts were dragged down a bit by lackluster snowfall and the litigation between Park City Mountain Resort and Vail Resorts that dragged into the late summer, Malone said. This year’s fresh start has proven to be an encouraging sign that the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday can eventually replicate the lodging success seen during Presidents Day, which is one of the busiest weekends of the season.
"We got out of the gate slow last year," Malone said. "But this year, we got out ahead of the curve and actually had ads specifically aimed at this weekend. I think if we keep this up for a couple of years, we’ll be on par with a lot of our competitors that have that MLK weekend as weekend people actually build vacations around."
Malone is optimistic that the occupancy numbers during Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend can approach those during President’s Day within a few years. And that would be huge for local businesses, he said.
"You only have so many days on in a ski season, and while for some people that might seem like a long period in time, for a lot of business people in town it’s a very short window," he said. "When you look at it, you’ve got the peaks like the Christmas-New Year’s holiday, Sundance and President’s Day. To add another weekend in there that has a spike to it is very helpful from a business standpoint. There still are the peaks and valleys during the season, and this was a noticeable valley for us. To get that to be a peak has been something we’ve been trying to do for a long time."
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The Vail Resorts announcement ends months of speculation about the mechanics of the ski season at PCMR.