Resort lodging numbers on the rise
Tahoe Daily Tribune
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Reservations and occupancy rates at a number of Lake Tahoe lodging spots are increasing over last season and those jumps are projected to grow in 2010, officials said.
Tahoe’s trend falls in line with other mountain resort communities that are also seeing their occupancy numbers rise, according to a study done by Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program.
Occupancy in mountain resorts nationally continues to edge up but remains slightly behind last year’s low figures, according to numbers the mountain travel researchers gathered at the end of January, the halfway point in the ski season.
In South Tahoe, Mike Donovan, MontBleu Resort director of marketing, said the New Year’s holiday jump-started the resort’s hotel occupancy. Compared to last season, he’s seen a 5 percent increase in January and a 16 percent increase in the first half of February.
“You have so many bad months back-to-back-to-back, to finally start in 2010 to see a trend in upward improvement, that’s been very good for us,” Donovan said.
Chris Minnes, the General Manager at the 968 Park Hotel described occupancy rates at the hotel this season as “pretty phenomenal.”
But Minnes, who is also the President of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association, said the season has been a “mixed bag” for South Shore lodging properties, depending on how they market themselves to customers.
The Village at Squaw Valley has seen a 24 percent improvement over last year – 3,100 more nights booked so far, said general manager Christy Beck. Beck said the resort hopes to exceed its 2008 numbers this season.
“Everything fell into place this year,” Beck said. “It’s just been really strong.”
Winter occupancy measured from November-April is down 1 percent – a slight improvement from Dec. 31 when it was down 3 percent, the mountain research program said Wednesday.
“It’s nice to finally be in a position to say something positive,” said Ralf Garrison, industry analyst and director of MTRiP. “February and March are also looking good.”
National reservations taken during January for the next six months are up 9.5 percent compared to January 2009, the strongest pace seen in the past three months, program also reported.
MTRiP’s study surveyed 201 property management companies in 15 destinations in Colorado, Utah, California and British Columbia.
Tahoe Mountain has seen growth over last year beginning in December, said Tammie Anstedt, marketing director at Tahoe Mountain Resorts lodging.
Economic conditions have made the Tahoe area attractive to guests who live nearby, she said
“I think that the whole theory of the ‘staycation’ is playing a factor. A good number of our guests are drive guests who come from the San Francisco Bay Area,” Anstedt said.
Bookings through Vacation Station in Incline Village are up over last year, and February a saw an 8 percent increase, said General Manager Don Cauley.
Currently, bookings for February are up 2.4 percent compared to February 2009, according to MTRiP, and the trend for short-lead bookings appears to remain in effect as the next two months are strengthening while reservations and bookings beyond March remain relatively weak.
But Cauley is less optimistic about the current gains, and said new developments near Northstar-at-Tahoe may have taken visitors away from Incline.
“It’s kind of like what they’re saying about unemployment. It’s less bad, but still bad,” Cauley said.
The growth in visitors staying nights has helped other businesses as well. MontBleu’s other operations, including the casino, nightclub and restaurants, have benefited as occupancy numbers have grown, Donovan said.
“Year-over-year, that’s trickled down to everything else,” he said.
Squaw Valley’s success has come from surprise group bookings since January and also from destination skiers seeing the snow in the area and deciding to visit, Beck said.
“Whoever gets the first snow, and a lot of it, gets the destination visitors early,” Beck said.
The gains aren’t breaking records or as good as three or four years ago, but Cauley said he’s happy to see people beginning to have enough confidence in the economy to take trips.
“People are beginning to be more open to taking vacations. We’re pleased.” Cauley said.
– Tahoe Daily Tribune Reporter Adam Jensen contributed to this story
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