Mountain travel bookings buck national economic trends

Mountain travel bookings keep bucking the national economic trends with solid results. But can they keep the momentum into the snowy season? SNEWS takes a look.

The most recent data released by the Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) revealed that despite a dramatic drop in consumer confidence, wide fluctuations in the stock market, hurricanes and heavy flooding, reservation activity for western mountain destinations remained solid.

August occupancy continued the positive summer trend with actual occupancy up 7.5 percent compared to the same month last year while the average daily rate (ADR) was virtually flat at 0.4 percent. On-the-books reservations for winter are also trending positively among participating destinations. September 2011 is pacing ahead of last September and is up 8.3 percent in occupancy with a 2.7-percent increase in the ADR. 

Looking forward, a noteworthy indicator is the 7.4-percent increase in on-the-books occupancy for the next six months (September through February) as of Aug. 31 with reservations taken in August for arrivals in August through January is up a significant 17.6 percent. Five of the six months are up compared to last year with the exception of October. December is showing the strongest gains and is currently up 17.3 percent compared to the same time last year.

“Despite an economically tumultuous August with all the market volatility and worrisome decline in consumer confidence, mountain resort vacation reservation activity is showing surprising strength,” said Ralf Garrison, MTRiP director. “For now, the booking trends appear to be defying economic gravity in many MTRIP destinations.” 

The MTRiP staff monitors a broad spectrum of economic indicators as part of their report and analysis. The dramatic drop of 24.5 points in the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) to its lowest level in 28 months (April 2009) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 4.4 percent in August in an unstable stock market were expected to have a negative impact on consumer bookings.

“Vacation travel is generally considered to be a discretionary expense and can be vulnerable in a tough economy but we continue to see signs that mountain resort travel is defying that conventional wisdom,” said Tom Foley, MTRiP research analyst. “Though mountain destinations were certainly impacted by the current recession, the bottom wasn’t as long or as deep as in other market segments, and it seems that visitors to mountain destinations may have a different sense of identity, attitude or mindset that keeps them coming to mountain resorts even in tough economic times.” 

“It’s too early to predict the winter outlook,” cautioned Garrison. “While advanced reservation momentum is impressive, it is early in the booking season and we anticipate continued volatility in the markets, so nothing should be taken for granted.”

--Peter Kray

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