Park City Lodging reports string of holiday cancellations, a sign of hesitation as ski season nears
Park City Lodging, a prominent firm in the area’s vacation-rental industry, said this week it has received a string of reservation cancellations in recent days that were for the crucial holiday stretch between Christmas and New Year’s, an early signal that travelers are hesitating as the ski season approaches amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.
Rhonda Sideris, the president of Park City Lodging, said in an interview the cancellations started last week, then continued into last weekend and into this week. Some of the recent cancellations involved larger-sized units, she said.
Park City Lodging manages approximately 250 vacation rentals, making it one of the bellwethers of the local industry. Sideris said the recent cancellations coincided with a 60-day period offered by the online travel agency VRBO to cancel a reservation without penalty. The 60-day period meant people who had booked reservations for the holidays needed to decide whether to cancel them in recent days. Check-in dates for the holidays usually are staggered but typically increase in the several days around Christmas.
“We’re concerned. I don’t want the trend to continue,” she said, adding that bookings for Thanksgiving are up from what is normal and there had not been cancellations for that holiday through the end of the workweek.
There are communitywide concerns about the upcoming ski season, the first full one amid the spread of the sickness. The illness forced an early end to the 2019-2020 ski season as health officials attempted to stop the spread. It is expected that economic numbers will drop across a range of Park City industries this ski season, with the possibility businesses with ties to the ski industry will especially suffer.
According to Sideris, bookings in December through Thursday dropped by 33% from the same period last year. The number of nights involved in the bookings was off by 21%. Revenue, though, rose by 6%, meaning those who made reservations wanted higher-priced units.
The Park City Lodging cancellations for the holiday period could be an ominous sign since the time between Christmas and New Year’s is usually one of the busiest stretches of the ski season as families gather to celebrate on the slopes. The Christmas-to-New Year’s period stands with the Sundance Film Festival and the extended Presidents Day weekend as traditionally especially busy and lucrative times for the Park City tourism industry.
Sideris said the people who are canceling reservations are telling Park City Lodging they are worried about the recent increases in coronavirus cases in Utah and nationally. She said the public is also learning about hospital protocols in Utah regarding care for coronavirus patients.
“People just don’t want to travel,” she said, adding, “I think it’s the spike we’re seeing.”
Sideris said Park City Lodging is crafting a revised marketing plan for the ski season centered on the safety of travel and accommodations. She described that the firm, as an example, uses an electrostatic machine to sanitize properties.
The holiday period ends just weeks before the start of Sundance, making it likely the community by early February will have at least an initial understanding of the impact of the sickness on the ski season. City Hall is projecting a steep drop in sales taxes during the winter. The projection is especially notable since sales taxes are charged on such a wide range of transactions and are seen as a key measure of the health of the local economy.
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