Lodging biz: summer was good, not great
This summer was all right for the Park City lodging industry, but only all right.
Sales offices attribute a drop in group business to the slowing economy and even the looming election. They also said summer marketing was successful, and are optimistic for winter.
"Overall, we’ve done about the same. (It was) an OK summer. They’re never what we hope they’d be," said James Bolstead, president and general manager of Resorts West.
Bolstead has seen decent business from the Triple-Crown softball tournament in recent years, but sensed that more locals chose to commute instead of stay this year.
Deer Valley Lodging saw the same thing with their concert packages.
"We lost a little from last year. We think it’s because times are a little tighter, gas is more expensive. People are still coming to concerts, but not staying," said Thomas Cook, director of marketing for the company.
Park City Lodging Inc. director of sales and marketing, John Duvivier, said his summer numbers have been down a little lately and agreed it was attributed to high gas prices and the economy.
In early spring, people held off making reservations to see how fuel prices would fluctuate, he explained.
Jan Raio, director of sales and marketing for the Stein Eriksen Lodge, thinks they benefited from this trend. Because of tighter budgets, more people took "staycations" and came to her lodge instead of traveling to farther away hot spots like Las Vegas.
"They didn’t drive as much and stayed local," she explained.
She saw the biggest decline in group numbers, however. She thinks that companies were cutting back and allowed fewer people to attend events in Park City.
Bolstead thinks it might also have to do with the elections. Some businesses will fair better under one administration, and some will do better under the other, so they often are hesitant to spend the year before until they know.
"People wait to see who will be in office and see what changes will come especially tax changes," he said.
He expects group business to pick up during the ski season once people are done watching and waiting.
Visitors also wait to see what snowfall is expected, Raio said.
Cook of Deer Valley Lodging, said they actually saw increases in group business, especially corporate retreats, from previous years, and attributes it to successful marketing.
The Lodges in Snow Park, the Silver Baron Lodge and the Chateaux have ample meeting and convention space and have done well. September is expected to do well also, he said.
They did see a few groups cancel, citing tighter budgets, so he agrees with the trend, but said the state Office of Tourism has helped Deer Valley resort get more attention nationally.
Duvivier of Park City Lodging Inc. agreed, saying that several clients said they were prompted to look up Park City on the Internet, or were pushed over the edge to choose it because of an effective ad they saw.
Luckily, none of the companies felt that Interstate 80 construction affected business. Most said clients scheduled enough in advance for it not to be a surprise to anyone.
With reservations for the ski season well under way, the sales offices say they are optimistic for the coming months.
The weak dollar may attract more foreign visitors, and Cook said Deer Valley Lodging has been going after that market making it a "serious objective" and "maximizing opportunities."
Duvivier said he saw that market niche pick up during the summer, and is hopeful since foreign visitors also tend to stay longer in their private homes and condominium rentals.
"Things are already looking good for winter, which is huge for us," he said.
Raio of the Stein Eriksen Lodge said they’re about 3 percent behind winter reservations from last year. 2008 was the best ever, however, so 3 to 5 percent behind is "not bad," she said.
Resorts West caters to higher end clientele with its condo, home and lodge rentals. Bolstead said winter reservations are "so far so good," and about the same as last year.
As far as predicting next summer, Raio said she believes the dates the holidays fall on has more impact on reservations than elections, gas price hikes or the slowing economy.
In 2007, a lot of people got two weeks off for the Christmas holiday. This year, Easter came in early March, when the resorts still had snow. Next year Easter will be in April.
"It’s interesting how different time frames affect the year," she mused.
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