The most recent data released by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) indicates that skiers and snowboarders are continuing to book ski and snowboard holidays for the coming season at a steady pace despite disappointing economic news in August and September that was expected to put a damper on early bookings for winter vacations at mountain destinations.
Lodging bookings are on the rise and remain consistent with recent patterns. The positive trend continued with the data indicating the next six months are showing positive increases with the exception of October. Year-over-year occupancy for the next six months (October-March) is up overall 8.4 percent compared to the same period last year with January up 18 percent and February up 10.3 percent.
“Advanced reservation data has been indicating strong business for several months, but this report with current reservation activity brings us more data and a higher level of confidence in these positive trends,” explained Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “This pattern says something about the tenacity of skiers and boarders who seem committed to getting back to the slopes—and apparently shrugging off discouraging economic news,” says Garrison. “However, at MTRiP we remain closely focused on the balancing act that’s taking place between the economy and consumers who are behaving as if vacations are their birthright.”
Looking back, in the past six months from April through September of 2011, actual occupancy was up 6.1 percent compared to the same period last year and was given a boost by unusually deep snow bases that extended the ski season for several weeks at a number of destination resorts. Unrelated to last year’s snowfall, mountain destinations continued to attract visitors throughout the summer and into the early fall with actual occupancy in September up six percent compared to September 2010.
The MTRiP monthly report, derived from and delivered to mountain resort destinations across the western U.S., also highlights economic issues that may influence the booking behavior of mountain travelers. This month’s report cautioned resorts about the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) that showed only a modest increase in September, 0.4 percent, from its dramatic August decline. It also cited other issues of concern including an essentially unmoving unemployment rate, the six percent decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and an uptick of 0.3 percent in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in September. Additionally, travel inflation continued to increase last month and is double the national consumer inflation rate. On the positive side, the report pointed out that crude oil prices were down 0.8 percent to $85.61 per barrel, posting a decline for the fourth time in the past five months—a potentially good shift for air and car travelers.
“With consumers feeling understandably edgy about the overall economy, we were intrigued by the gains measured in the August and September MTRiP reports,” mused Tom Foley, MTRiP director of operations. “Skiers and boarders are booking in force and booking early, and so far they don’t seem to be negatively influenced, at least as far as their winter vacations are concerned. However, we are noticing less momentum in the typically slower months while the high demand months are steamrolling ahead and illustrating that this is a very dynamic marketplace,” he added.