Report: Despite January Blip, Western Hill Stations Experience Harsh Winter | Business


Western hill stations continue to have a strong winter season, despite cooling in early January when COVID-19 cases spiked, according to a report from a major analytics firm.

Hotel occupancy at ski resorts in the West increased year-over-year in January, but was down from pre-pandemic levels in January 2020, the report said.

The report from DestiMetrics, a division of Vermont-based Inntopia, features data from 18 western mountain stations in seven states. The data revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic “still has a strong influence on booking patterns in resort destinations and shows a clear correlation that as cases increase, bookings decrease and when cases start to decline, bookings rise,” the report said.

In January, hotel occupancy was up 40% from a year ago, but down 3.7% from January 2020, the report said. As of January 31, occupancy for the entire winter season, including actual results for the first three months of the season and book-based results for the last three months of the season, was up sharply by 49 % compared to last winter. at that time, he said. That includes a triple-digit percentage gain for the month of April.

High occupancy rates, coupled with a 35% increase in the average daily room rate, resulted in a 101% increase in revenue over last year, the report said.

Just over a year ago, COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out, noted Tom Foley, senior vice president of business processes and analytics for Inntopia. This has led to an increase in bookings well in advance and bookings made shortly before they start, referred to as ‘short term bookings’. In January, short-term reservations in most western hill stations

declined sharply amid the COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant of the virus, the report said.

“But as new cases started to decline, booking volume started to come back and this improving trend should help reinforce an even stronger end of February and March,” Foley said.

Tim Johnson, sales manager at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, said the Limelight did not experience a drop due to the omicron. Amid the pandemic, travelers often make plans close to their travel dates, he said, which allows them flexibility.

Additionally, the hotel last year began requiring guests and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Johnson noted. Since then, business has been steady, he said.

Businesses in downtown Ketchum reported a busy Presidents Day on Monday, February 21.

“All of the housing in this community has seen phenomenal growth,” he said. “People are traveling again and demand is high, and I expect that the rest of the winter.”

A strong winter season in Ketchum went beyond the lodging industry. Heather Price, assistant manager of the Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill, said the restaurant was “extremely busy” over Presidents Day weekend and that this winter was “busier than the previous two years, even with the pandemic. [still going on].”

Chip Atkinson, co-owner of Atkinsons Markets, has seen some swings.

“We’ve had a few good days and a few good days, so things just got a little off,” he said.

All things considered, business was significantly better than at the start of the pandemic, Atkinson said.

When it comes to summer, the outlook for western hill stations is positive, says the DestiMetrics report. Overall occupancy, which measures the total number of guests, is up 49% from May to October compared to summer 2021, it says, indicating that people are planning summer longer at the advance than last year. 


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