LAKE TAHOE — Preliminary winter reservations at several North Shore lodging establishments indicate the area will experience a busy winter season.
December bookings for the Hampton Inn & Suites in Truckee are up 19.5 percent from this time last year, said Rick Rucker, hotel general manager, adding that January and February bookings also are up.
“The planets are aligned,” he said. “The economy is coming back, the ski resorts are doing a great job and there’s a lot of disposable income in the Bay Area.”
The Resort at Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley is seeing winter reservations up by 40 percent from this time last year, said Geneva Valdivieso, the resort’s director of revenue optimization.
“It’s very encouraging for the entire valley, and it’s a great thing to see people get excited for the winter season early,” she said.
The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Incline Village is witnessing a similar upward trend, said Hanna Bankston, marketing manager for the Hyatt; holiday periods such as Christmas and New Year’s are already “close to sold out.”
“If everything continues as it has been, and we get snow, we’re going to break all sorts of records,” Bankston said
Rucker pointed out the important role snow serves in reservations being kept.
For the 2011-12 winter, when snowfall was below average and came late in the season, the Hampton Inn experienced “huge” cancellations, he said.
Due to the lack of snow in the immediate forecast, Pepper Tree Inn Tahoe in Tahoe City has seen average winter bookings to date, reported Lee Cherry, co-keeper and general manager of the inn.
“When snow gets into the forecast, the phones turn red,” he said.
Fully occupied lodges not only benefits those establishments, but the entire community through a higher collection of Transient Occupancy Tax, Rucker said.
TOT is a charge added to the cost of a room — motel, hotel, condominium — paid by visitors to the area who stay fewer than 30 days. Funds are used to support infrastructure, marketing and transportation projects in the area.
BEYOND THE NORTH SHORE
The increase in early winter room reservations is not limited to the North Shore/Truckee area.
“It’s picked up quite a bit earlier,” said Pete MacRoberts, general manager of South Lake Tahoe’s Holiday Inn Express. “We didn’t expect that until the snow started to fall.”
MacRoberts attributes this increase in part due to the lack of snow the past two winters, with the public presumption that this year will yield better ski and riding weather.
“With everything going on, people are going to take the time to go skiing this year,” he said.
Through September, reservations among American western resorts for arrivals in September through February are up 9.7 percent from last year, according to recent statistics from DestiMetrics, which compiles data from about 260 property management companies in 17 mountain communities in Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada and Oregon.
Although it’s still early in the booking season, 28 percent of winter bookings have already been made, according to DestiMetrics.
“All of the reservation metrics are continuing in a positive direction as we go into the prime winter booking season,” said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics. “We’ve seen consistent increases in both occupancy and revenue in 11 of the past 12 months, and we haven’t seen this kind of sustained strength in the mountain lodging industry since pre-2008.”
YEAR IN REVIEW
North Tahoe has witnessed a similar trend of sustained strength.
January through March 2013 was the second highest quarter collection of TOT funds, up 35 percent from the previous year, said Andy Chapman, chief marketing officer for the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/ CVB/ Resort Association, in a previous interview.
Near the end of July, 2013 summer reservations on the books were already up 13.5 percent from last summer, Chapman said. The normally slow fall season was helped by Ironman Lake Tahoe taking place Sept. 22, drawing thousands of athletes and spectators to the region.
“It’s been a banner year for us,” Bankston said.
Griffin Rogers, reporter for Tahoe Daily Tribune, contributed to this report.