Coronavirus fears impact final weeks of Park City’s ski season
There is still roughly a month left in the ski season in Park City, leaving time for bookings for a late-season trip.
But at the lodging firm Identity Properties, prospective clients have shown little interest in the remaining weeks of the ski season. As the novel coronavirus spreads, it appears there will be impacts on the tourism numbers toward the end of the ski season.
“My phones are quiet, and the internet is quiet,” said Rob Slettom, the president and owner of Identity Properties, in an interview on Monday, adding, “It’s very slow.”
He said the firm during the beginning of March typically receives bookings for late March and early April, many of them last-minute decisions by the travelers. Instead, Slettom said, there have been two recent reservation cancellations. The deposits were not refundable since the cancellations were so close to the planned arrival date. Slettom said the deposits were carried forward to the next ski season.
“They were just nervous about the travel,” he said.
Slettom said the March bookings, overall, are “still holding fairly well.” The April numbers are weak, he said, but he explained April is not a strong month for bookings anyway as the ski season ends.
“So far it hasn’t been too dramatic,” he said.
The spread of the coronavirus and the convulsions in the financial markets blamed on the illness are unfolding late in the ski season, meaning the damage to Park City-area businesses will likely be limited. The final weeks of March are important as spring-break trips continue, but business in April usually drops sharply.
It is likely the impacts on the Park City economy would have been more pronounced had the concerns about the coronavirus been as widespread in December and January, a period that covered the holidays and the Sundance Film Festival, as they are now.
Another industry firm, Park City Lodging, said there had been one cancellation by early in the week. The person recently traveled overseas and was sick with the flu, the owner and president of Park City Lodging, Rhonda Sideris, said.
Sideris said the firm has instituted a new policy regarding cancellations that allows someone to receive a full refund on a booking if they are diagnosed with the coronavirus and have documentation from a health care provider. Refunds are usually not allowed within 45 days of an arrival date. She also said Park City Lodging will allow someone with a reservation to rebook the same unit for another time of year without penalty if they are concerned about flying based on the spread of the illness.
She said the firm last weekend received eight new bookings for March travel and solid numbers are expected for the rest of the ski season, with reservations for April stays increasing recently.
The concerns about the spread of the coronavirus are impacting the final weeks of a ski season that could end with mixed numbers. While some weeks appeared busy, there were concerns about other periods of the ski season. Some Main Street businesses, as an example, reported a drop in sales during Sundance in January.
The Park City Chamber/Bureau closely monitors lodging numbers, projecting overall occupancy for the ski season will drop slightly from the 2018-2019 season. The projection of a slight drop is based on the timing of the coronavirus concerns so late in the season, Chamber/Bureau President and CEO Bill Malone said.
“We probably have 90-plus percent winter business already been consumed, or in the books,” Malone said, explaining there could have been a larger hit to the industry had the illness spread in November and December.
Malone, though, said there have been corporate groups canceling trips in March. Some lodging properties have lost bookings of up to 200 room-nights, an industry measure of one person staying in one room for a night. He said there is also concern about corporate bookings for the summer.
He also acknowledged reservations for March usually continue into the month. The March reservation numbers were strong as the month approached, but new reservations have been impacted.
“We’re not really getting any reservations at this point for March,” Malone said.
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Park City is considering reinstating a controversial program along Main Street involving permit-only drop-and-load zones, something that debuted early last winter before it was suspended in March.