U.S. and Canada ski resorts that shivered in fear last month of poor holiday turnout received some relieving news last week. The Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) reports that timely snowfall, discounted lodging, incentive packages, and aggressive marketing campaigns led to numbers that exceeded expectations. The occupancy rate at properties managed by 216 companies in 15 mountain destination communities across Colorado, Utah, California, and British Columbia was down 8.5 percent from a year earlier, while the average daily rate for accommodations dropped 4.8 percent.
"While the results are not as good as previous years, it was considerably ‘less bad’ than expected," reported Ralf Garrision, author of the report.
Bookings began slow in December but snowfall during the middle of the month, combined with last-minute promotions, led to a quick increase in reservations. Ski resorts near urban population centers saw the biggest increase. For the entire month, bookings were down 7.1 percent compared to December of 2007 last year but were much more favorable compared to November, which was down 25.1 percent. Last-minute bookings in December 2008 were up dramatically over the previous year with a 64.3 percent increase.
The date for occupancy in mountain resorts is still down 18.1 percent overall for the entire season, and the advanced reservation outlook for the remainder of the season remains weak with bookings for January through April running 20 percent behind last year’s pace.
“Consumers that can respond to resort promotions on short notice are definitely enjoying some exceptional values this season but this volatile economy and shaky consumer confidence is creating challenges for mountain resort communities,” said Garrison. “Although this may not be a banner year, at the moment, the situation is looking ‘less bad’ which is rapidly becoming the new ‘good.’"