Park City lodging, visitor-spending numbers projected to crater amid coronavirus, skiing shutdown
Park City lodging numbers and visitor spending are projected to crater in March and April as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus and the shutdown of the ski industry, the Park City Chamber/Bureau said this week, the first empirical data showing the economic havoc wrought on the community by the disease.
The Chamber/Bureau indicated the season-end spending by visitors through the end of April is projected to drop by 16.7% from the previous ski season. The spending by visitors led last season through the end of February, illustrating how abrupt the drop occurred as the illness spread. The projection estimates visitors will spend approximately $765.6 million during the current ski season, dropping from the upward of $919.1 million in the one before.
Lodging occupancy, meanwhile, is projected to drop in a similar fashion. The numbers were up from last season through the end of February before a projected disastrous March and April. Occupancy is projected to drop nearly 50% from 69.9% in March of 2019 while April is projected to fall 73% on a year-over-year basis. The total for the 2019-2020 ski season is projected to drop 15%, to 39%. Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, a 3% increase in occupancy was expected for the ski season, a dramatic, swift drop to the 15% decline now projected.
Visitor spending and lodging occupancy are two crucial and related measures of the ski season since the occupancy numbers directly influence the spending in the community.
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The Chamber/Bureau numbers were released in the days after Park City Mountain Resort announced it will not reopen this ski season after what was initially a temporary closure. Deer Valley Resort remains closed on a temporary basis. The closures of the mountain resorts coupled with the temporary shutdown of dine-in service at restaurants by health officials effectively removed two key segments of the economy at a time of the ski season when both would normally be jammed with spring-break visitors. Many retailers on Main Street have also closed temporarily as the crowds disappeared.
It will be months before the ski season’s numbers are finalized, but the projections provided by the Chamber/Bureau offer a preview of the damage.
“From a visitor standpoint, it appears we’ve closed for business,” Bill Malone, the president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said on Thursday, describing that the spring shoulder season essentially started a month earlier than is typical. “It’s a significant amount of dollars that just are not arriving in town, through the cash register.”
It was clear once the lifts at the two mountain resorts were stopped there would be broad repercussions across Park City. The mountain resorts boost a wide range of businesses like hotels, restaurants, retailers, ski-rental outfits and shuttles. The work force, in turn, supports numerous other businesses important to the everyday lives of people who reside in the community.
The steep drop in business will eventually also be reflected in private-sector and public-sector budgets. The private sector will be expected to need to adjust upcoming budgets based on the ski season’s numbers. A drop in tax receipts important to public bodies like City Hall will also need to be considered as those budgets are crafted.
Malone said there are encouraging signals for the rest of the year, including solid bookings for the summer, the rescheduling of some meetings and conventions to the fall and the possibility that ski vacations planned this season being delayed until the next one. Malone also said he hopes the solid numbers through February provide a bridge for businesses through the drop late in the season.
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