Lodging figures down around Tahoe as ski season closes
April 21, 2009
LAKE TAHOE ” Tahoe area resorts report they are satisfied after a relatively good season of snow, despite the fact that mountain travel industry analysts are reporting dramatic drops in visitor numbers the past season.
The Mountain Travel Research Program, which analyzes 216 property management companies across the West including those in Tahoe, said occupancy in March was down 21.3 percent, with season-to-date results showing occupancy down 16 percent.
But resorts are reporting close-to-average skier numbers, adding they ended much better than many thought when the season began with very little snow in a tightening economy.
“I know that the region in general was a little nervous going into the winter,” said Rachael Woods, spokesperson for Alpine Meadows and Homewood ski resorts. “I think Alpine and Homewood were both fortunate this year … and when we did receive snow, we did receive it in massive quantities, which helped.”
The Mountain Travel Monitor reports on a variety of economic indicators that influence mountain travelers and skiers. The nation’s high unemployment rate and low consumer confidence pushed many vacation reservations to the last minute.
“Skiers traveled closer to home this season,” said Ralf Garrison, author of the report. Diamond Peak Ski Resort spokesperson Kayla Anderson and Sugar Bowl spokesperson John Monson echoed that sentiment.
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“I think it was fair ” it wasn’t our best, but it wasn’t our worst,” Anderson said. “We had a strong Christmas weekend, but people waited to see what the weather was doing before heading up here, and that affected what people did.”
“We’re positioned well for the rubber-tire market,” Monson added. “We’re the closest resort, in the Tahoe Basin, from Sacramento. A lot of people took advantage of that fact.”
Preliminary projections indicate that April business looks good, primarily due to the busy Easter holiday that landed in March last year and fell in April this year. While the volume is not large, occupancy is flat and room rates are up 5 percent.
“As the consumer spending button gets reset in the months ahead, many people consider flat as the new up,” quipped Garrison.
Season-to-date results show average daily lodging rates down 9 percent for the overall season, the result of discounts. Figures have remained consistent for the past three months and are thought to closely reflect anticipated end-of-season totals due at the end of April.
Many last minute bookings were The combination of lower occupancy and reduced rate combined to decrease total revenue. The report indicates that municipal entities in resort communities that receive funding derived from these revenues are expected to experience budget shortfalls for the coming season.
Travel trends are also showing continued weakness well into the summer months. Both occupancy and rate are well below previous summer levels, but the ski industry is holding to the analysis it’s been handing out all year ” it could be worse.
“When you compare either skier visits or overall lodging to the stock and housing markets or the banking, auto, and many other industries, only Wal-Mart, McDonalds, NetFlix and a handful of other companies have out-performed the mountain resort industry,” claims Garrison. “Once again it looks like skiers and the ski industry are showing their resilience.”
Late season, resorts dropped season pass prices. Two of the most aggressive deals come from neighbor resorts Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley USA, whose unrestricted season pass prices are currently cut in half ” $649 at Alpine and $949 at Squaw.
“This is the most dramatic price change I’ve seen since I’ve been working here,” said Ivan McGurk, Squaw’s ticket manager, on the first morning Squaw’s season passes went on sale. “I’ve seen an overall positive response, people are psyched to see prices like this.”
Luke Beasley and Nick Cruit contributed to this story.