Amy Roberts: Hoping for a Christmas miracle
For months there’s been a back-and-forth concern about lodging numbers and what a drop in tourism would mean for our local economy. At the beginning of this pandemic, our tourism-based economy seemed to be on the brink of collapse. No doubt, some small businesses, nonprofits, restaurants and Parkites are still struggling. But the fear that visitors would stop visiting Park City turned out to be more anxiety than reality. There are opening night of Sundance levels of humans in town at the moment. And they all go to the grocery store at the same time.
A November lodging report from the Park City Chamber/Bureau showed holiday lodging numbers are only down about 20%. But that doesn’t account for anyone who made their reservation between Dec. 1 and yesterday. These numbers also don’t include any owner rentals through Airbnb or VRBO. Traditionally, lodging reports from the Chamber/Bureau are a sampling of hotel properties and some accommodations offered through lodging companies, but not privately owned homes and condos made available for rent through the owner.
In October, Airbnb released a report about the nation’s travel habits and how they’ve changed since COVID-19 became part of our daily vernacular. With international borders closed and busy urban destinations less appealing, plus the added flexibility of working remotely, people were looking for a change of scenery. And their top pick was Park City. We’re No. 1 on Airbnb — add that to the trophy collection.
The Chamber/Bureau’s lodging projections also don’t account for guests that might be staying in your home or second homeowners who have decided their mountain getaway is a lot more appealing than their apartment in the city for the time being. Nor do they capture new residents. The real estate market here has been hot for some time, but the past few months it’s been on fire. There’s next to no inventory. Many houses that once sat empty most of the year are suddenly filled with new neighbors we haven’t met yet.
So, while hotels may or may not be at 100% occupancy, that doesn’t mean the town isn’t at 150% occupancy. One only has to drive on S.R. 224 between 4 and 5 p.m. to know we’re at max capacity. Given Deer Valley Resort sold out weeks in advance of the Christmas holiday period, I think it’s safe to assume the sky didn’t fall. Unfortunately, neither has the snow. We could certainly use a lot more to spread all these people out across the mountain.
Town isn’t the only thing that’s full. Hospitals across Utah are as well. Late last week it was reported 99.4% of intensive care unit beds statewide were filled, and in the bigger hospitals that handle the most coronavirus cases, ICU beds were beyond their official capacity at more than 104%.
We’ve been warned about percentages like this for months, but now that ski season is here, and with it a massive amount of people attempting to ski on very limited terrain, we all better hope for a Christmas miracle — no ski injuries that require hospitalization.
Wear a mask and stay vertical out there.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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