Winter season looking rosy for local economy
The Park City Chamber/Bureau held its midseason update luncheon at Chateaux Deer Valley Thursday, and the news was good.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, began with a recap of 2019, which he called “probably one of the best economic performances for us that we’ve seen in some time.” That was true across the state, he pointed out, with visitors spending a record $9.75 billion in Utah last year. Job growth in Utah was also the best in the country.
Much of the strength of 2019 is owed to the stellar 2018-2019 ski season, Malone said. So how is 2019-2020 going so far?
“I’d say we’re doing pretty darn good,” Malone said. “The snow is comparable to this time last year. There’s maybe a little less in California, but here in the Rockies we are in good shape.”
While lodging numbers for November were down, Malone said that month is less significant to the ski season in Park City than it is in other destinations. By contrast, December and January lodging numbers were better than the prior year. December’s total occupancy was 46% of capacity compared to 44% in December 2018, while January of this year was at 66% compared to 63% in 2019.
The average daily booking rate has been strong, as well, even in November; while occupancy was down in the month from 15% to 21%, the average price of a room was $203 compared to $172, according to Malone. In December of this season, the booking rate increased from $554 to $592, and in January, it increased from $596 to $613.
“The average daily rate has been strong, and in fact you will probably see sales tax revenue for local governments reach an all-time high,” he said. “When you look at our average daily rate projections for the entire winter, at $571 we’re looking at our best year ever.”
February’s occupancy rate is projected to be 70% (compared to 67% in 2019) while March is projected to be about the same as last year. April’s projected occupancy is lower than it was at this point last year, but Malone said he expects the actual number to be strong.
“We have some work to do in April, yes, but the reality is we have seven more ski days this year than last year,” he said. “In particular, our Southern Hemisphere guests like to come for the Easter holiday and it lines up really well for us this year.”
Malone noted that as of Thursday, there were 59 days left in the ski season. For the business community, he said, it’s a “sprint to the finish.” When that sprint is over, he said, he expects they’ll be very happy with the results.
“I just want to say how appreciative I am of the ski resorts and to our local businesses that have worked so hard to make this a great season,” he said. “You’re helping people who come here to visit us make some wonderful memories.”
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Bill White shut down his restaurants in the spring when the pandemic hit. They’re back up and running, but the challenges brought on by COVID-19 remain: “[I]t seems we collectively are taking one step forward and two steps backwards.”