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Tourist influx comes around Christmas

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

Each year Park City enjoys a surge in population in late December lasting until the new year. This year is unlikely to be any different.

According to estimates from the Park City Chamber/Bureau, the 2006 holiday boom will start around Dec. 24 and peak the two days later.

"Typically, the week of Dec. 17-23 is kind of our typical build-up to Christmas," said Chamber/Bureau executive director Bill Malone. "We are slightly down compared to last year; but it’s interesting that the days we look to be a little slower are the days at the beginning of the week, around Dec. 17-19, but we pick up on the Dec. 20 to run comparable, if not a little bit ahead, of last year."

Malone said last year’s numbers for occupancy on Dec. 23 were at the 11,500 visitors per night night level, which is slightly in excess of about 55 percent. He said that number will be similar this year, and, like last year, will skyrocket by Dec. 26. Maximum occupancy is about 22,000 visitor nights.

"Most people look at Christmas as the weekend of the Dec. 23 to Dec. 30," Malone said. "That’s the big week. We don’t have a lot of information on the first week of January at this time, but we know from tradition and from what we’re hearing that the week of the Dec. 24 to Dec. 30 will be very strong."

For the week leading up to Christmas 2005, there were roughly 78,000 visitor nights. Only a week later, Christmas week saw more than 118,000 overnight guests in Park City, according to Malone. Those numbers, he predicted, will be similar this year.

One reason many are citing for not having amore significant increase in guests is the day on which Christmas falls Monday. Many schools throughout the country are not breaking for winter vacation until Dec. 21, which sets the normal arrival date later.

Malone, on the other hand, said he does not feel the Monday holiday will impact the numbers much when compared to 2005.

"I think, in years past, the day of the week the holiday fell on had more implications than maybe it does this year," Malone said. "I don’t see it having much negative impact this year; having it on a Monday doesn’t change much from having it on Friday, Saturday or Sunday."

Another concern for Parkites is the erratic weather. Because one of Park City’s main attractions to visitors is the three local ski resorts, snowfall is a key factor for many in choosing Park City as a destination.

Once again, however, Malone is not concerned. Although he admits more snow and colder temperatures would help, he believes destinations visitors have faith in Mother Nature to deliver.

"People have very strong confidence that we’ll supply a pretty strong skiing product by Christmastime," he said. "People know the snow will fall."

Malone said he expects guests to show around Christmas, give or take a day, and then stay until New Year’s, which he predicted to be the day of the exodus.

"Last year we saw a really strong first week of January, and although I haven’t sent those numbers yet, I would anticipate that being a strong week as well," he said, comparing it to the week before Christmas. "Then it will cool off for a week and a half and then shoot back up after the Sundance Film Festival starts."

One difference between the 2006 and the 2005 numbers was the timing of the reservations. Malone said Christmas week reservations started earlier and filled faster this year than in previous years.

"It seems as though our customer who likes to come here over the holiday realizes that if you want a good selection of where to stay you need to not procrastinate," he said.

He added that although during other times of the year it is easy to see where the new trendy spot to stay is, during Christmas it just comes down to who has room in the inn.

"The Christmas holiday is one of those periods where everyone is doing well," he said. "You can pick those trends out when we’re not running really high occupancy and that’s not Christmas."


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