Park City lodging industry, a bellwether, projects steep drop in ski season occupancy
Park City hotel occupancy, an important bellwether for the wider local economy, is expected to drop sharply in the ski season, a lodging industry leader said this week, more evidence of the likelihood there will be struggles at least at some level during the key months from December until March.
Danny Williams, the president of the Park City Area Lodging Association, said in an interview the occupancy of traditional hotels in the Park City area is projected to drop by 20% from the previous ski season. Rates are projected to be depressed as well, but the drop might not be as steep, he said, predicting the rates to fall by between 10% and 12%.
Occupancy levels have more impact on the broader economy since people at traditional hotels spend money outside the places they are staying, such as at the mountain resorts, restaurants, shops and transportation services. The rates generally impact the hotel industry itself, which employs large numbers of people in the Park City area.
Williams said the industry by the middle of the week was “not seeing a major bleed here on cancellations.” He said many hotels have eased cancellation policies, giving people who have booked reservations more time to decide on the trips. Some are opting to alter the timing of their trips to Park City, he said.
“We’re seeing some jockeying around on dates,” Williams said.
He said some of the major hotels currently allow cancellations within 24 or 48 hours of a check-in date. They traditionally required a 30-day notice of a cancellation, he said. The loosened cancellation policies have given people more confidence to complete bookings, Williams said, predicting the reservation numbers will increase.
The ski season is scheduled to start at Park City Mountain Resort later in November followed by Deer Valley Resort in early December. The first weeks of the ski season normally especially attract people who live in the Park City area or elsewhere in Utah with limited numbers of people from outside the state who need lodging.
But the period around Christmas and New Year’s is usually one of the busiest of the ski season, drawing large crowds from across the U.S. and pushing up occupancy numbers across the lodging industry. The lodging numbers in the week to 10 days prior to Christmas will be the first that will provide a good gauge of the early weeks of the ski season. In the weeks after New Year’s, the lodging industry will prepare for the Sundance Film Festival, an especially lucrative stretch of the winter across a range of industries. The festival in 2021, though, will be scaled back in Park City and shortened in length. It seems highly unlikely the lodging industry will enjoy the normal Sundance business next year since the number of festival-goers traveling to Park City is expected to decrease.
The forecasts from the leader of the lodging association follow shortly after a prominent firm in the industry, Park City Lodging, indicated it has received a string of reservation cancellations for the holiday stretch between Christmas and New Year’s.
Park City is approaching the start of a ski season with numerous unknowns, including the state of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus and the willingness of people to travel. City Hall is projecting a sharp drop in sales taxes during the ski season, a key measure of economic activity since they are charged on a wide range of transactions.
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