Park City lodging numbers improve, but they remain depressed from a typical Sundance |

Park City lodging numbers improve, but they remain depressed from a typical Sundance

The recent snow may have drawn interest even as bookings are down sharply from 2020

Banners for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival are displayed on Main Street Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. This year's festival will be held largely online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.

The Park City Chamber/Bureau reading, dated Jan. 15, showed rising numbers from a report a month earlier. The projection for Jan. 28 — the opening day of Sundance — showed occupancy at 39%, up from 23% from the Dec. 15 report. But the number is off sharply from the actual figure from opening day of Sundance in 2020, when occupancy topped 90%.

The projections for 2021 never hit 50% during the days of Sundance while the actual numbers in 2020 never went below that figure. Still, though, the increases were seen throughout the dates of the festival in 2021 between the Dec. 15 and Jan. 15 reports.

The numbers are derived from a sampling of properties that cover a range of lodging options like economy hotels, luxury hotels and short-term vacation rentals.

Sundance shifted the festival to an online platform without a live venue in Park City amid the continued concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. The move essentially eliminated the necessity of festival-goers to travel to Park City.

Sundance and Christmas week are usually the busiest times of the year for the lodging industry, with occupancy levels and room rates at their highest.

The Park City Chamber/Bureau has consistently said travelers during the spread of the sickness are booking rooms closer to check-in dates than is typical as they wait longer to finalize plans.

“We expected that … given what we know about last-minute bookings,” Jennifer Wesselhoff, the president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said about the rising projections.

She said people contemplating a trip to Park City are considering snow conditions, the amount of terrain open at the mountain resorts and the coronavirus case levels. Wesselhoff said a local mask mandate offers safety assurances to people considering a trip to Park City.

Wesselhoff said she anticipates the actual lodging numbers in January will have improved from the Jan. 15 projection. The Park City area since that date enjoyed some of the largest snowstorms of the season, something that oftentimes leads to an increase in bookings.

Lodging options like properties rented through services like Airbnb or rented by individual owners are not included in the report.

The lodging numbers are important to the overall economy since people visiting also spend money at restaurants, shops and on transportation services. It is almost certain the other industries will suffer a significant economic hit alongside the hotel sector during the dates of Sundance even with the rising occupancy projections.

Wesselhoff, looking broadly at the ski season, said businesses continue to prepare for a drop in sales. She also noted employment numbers in the Park City area are off from the figures of recent years. She said sales could drop by between 20% and 40% during the ski season.

“Businesses are expecting to be down,” she said, adding, “They’re taking precautions.”

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