Park City tourism industry, likely to take a Sundance hit, swivels to February projections
Lodging bookings for important month of ski season are well ahead of the pace of 2021
January will be no blockbuster for the Park City tourism industry with the cancellation of the Sundance Film Festival as an in-person event.
But the spotlight will soon swivel to February and the arrival of a new cast of characters in Park City.
As a crucial stretch of the ski season approaches, lodging projections for February are well ahead of those tallied at the same time in 2021. The projections this year also are generally beating the actual numbers from 2021 on a day-by-day basis.
The Park City Chamber/Bureau’s most recent lodging forecast, dated Dec. 31, covers the period from Jan. 1 until Feb. 28. The forecast points to a strong February with occupancy reaching as high as 86% and other days topping the 80% figure.
February is considered to be one of the key months for the Park City economy. Snow conditions are usually some of the best of the winter and the three-day Presidents Day weekend is traditionally one of the busiest of the ski season. The month essentially bridges what is normally a slower period for the ski industry between New Year’s and the arrival of spring-break crowds in March.
The Dec. 31 forecast released by the Chamber/Bureau is based on a survey of 18 properties that represent a range of traditional lodging options like economy hotels, luxury hotels and short-term vacation rentals. Bookings and cancellations made since Dec. 31 are not included. An updated reading from the Chamber/Bureau is expected shortly.
The next report will more likely illustrate whether the sharp increase in cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has impacted bookings through the middle of March. It will also provide an early picture of bookings for the first weeks of spring breaks.
The Presidents Day weekend forecast projects 84% occupancy on Saturday, 86% occupancy on Sunday and 73% occupancy on Monday. At the same time in 2021, the projections for Presidents Day weekend topped out at 45%. The actual numbers in 2021, though, beat the projections by wide margins.
Some of the dates in February with high occupancy projections include:
• Feb. 3 at 84%
• Feb. 4 at 85%
• Feb. 5 at 85%
• Feb. 10 at 82%
• Feb. 11 at 83%
The statewide ski industry posted unprecedented numbers during the 2020-2021 ski season, setting a record in skier-days — a key industry metric that measures the number of people on the slopes — in the winter after the coronavirus-forced shutdowns led to an early end to the previous ski season. It is not clear whether the current ski season is pacing with 2020-2021 numbers, but Park City has appeared to be extraordinarily busy in recent weeks. The crowds have led to complaints about traffic and the length of lines at ski lifts.
Many see skiing as an activity that can be enjoyed safely outside during the pandemic, something that has driven the number of visitors higher. The hot economy is also seen as a contributor to the success of the ski industry this winter. The Chamber/Bureau, meanwhile, is promoting Park City “as ‘Winter’s Favorite Town,’ emphasizing our amazing outdoor adventures in the clean, fresh mountain air,” according to a prepared statement from the organization’s president and CEO, Jennifer Wesselhoff, provided at the request of The Park Record.
“We are messaging visitors and potential visitors about visiting safely and observing Summit County’s mask mandate. We are also closely monitoring COVID cases in our target markets, and we will modify our marketing plans if COVID thresholds are exceeded,” she also said.
The lodging numbers are important to the overall Park City economy. People who are visiting also tend to spend heavily in the recreation, restaurant and transportation industries. Retailers also usually enjoy increased sales at times when lodging bookings are high. City Hall also benefits through increased tax collections.
The February numbers will follow a January that will likely suffer economically with Sundance moving online. Festival organizers in early January cited concern about the spread of the coronavirus in the decision to cancel the in-person event for the second consecutive year. The lodging numbers were expected to spike with the return of Sundance, scheduled from Jan. 20 until Jan. 30. The lodging industry instead is hoping to attract skiers during the dates that Sundance crowds would have otherwise booked many of the available rooms.
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Park City Council members have directed staffers to continue working on a plan to develop affordable housing on a site 1 ½ miles south of City Hall on Marsac Avenue. Staffers are recommending the city release a request for proposals (RFP) to find interested entities to participate in a public-private partnership to build the project.