Across West, tourism’s slow season showing growth | SierraSun.com

Across West, tourism’s slow season showing growth

A few inches of snow fell at higher-elevation areas at Lake Tahoe on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 16-17. This image was taken Thursday, Nov. 18, at Northstar California.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Ahh, the slow season — that sweet spot between summer and winter, when you can actually find a parking spot and the lines at the supermarket don't make you consider abandoning your shopping cart.

There's also less money coming in. Some people are between seasonal gigs; others may've had their hours cut or noticed a decrease in their tips. But hey, it'll pick back up — and sooner than you might think.

Despite economic concerns leading up to the election, and recent warm temperatures, the upcoming winter season could be a big one for the tourism industry.

"As of Oct. 31, on-the-books occupancy and revenue among … resorts is continuing the momentum of both the record-breaking summer and the previous winter's strong snow equity," according to a press release from Colorado-based private research firm Destimetrics.

Destimetrics tracks performance in mountain destinations by analyzing monthly reservation data at participating resorts. Their most recent report of the Mountain West region, which covers California, Nevada and Oregon, showed a 4 percent increase in occupancy reservations for the month of October compared to last year.

"We are in an interesting period right now as we wait to see how the outcome of the presidential election and weather patterns influence bookings in the coming weeks and months," said Destimetrics Director Ralf Garrison, according a press release from the company. "Lodging operators at western mountain resorts are getting somewhat concerned about the recent warm conditions and lack of snow, but as of Oct. 31, there is no evidence that the booking pace is slowing down or that winter occupancy or revenues are being affected."

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The email also reported that November, December, January and February are already showing occupancy and revenue increases over last year.

"Positive snow equity from last season is driving early bookings and is laying a good foundation for the rest of the winter so if Mother Nature does her part and starts delivering wintery weather, western mountain destinations are well-positioned for another very good start to the season," Garrison said.

The company's operations director, Tom Foley, said that while things look good it's still too earlier to know if the election's results have had an impact on lodging reservations and that data won't be available until the end of the month.

"The data say things are looking good, but it's early," Foley said. "Wild cards are massive this year between the weather and the election that surprised both parties."

For now though, he said there's some indication that the slow season is becoming shorter.

"The fall season is changing," he said. "Ten years ago we would have defined summer as Memorial Day to Labor Day, but now September and October are being seen as an opportunity."

He said the fall has been considered a shoulder season historically but the increase in occupancy rates, both in the Mountain West market as well as the Rocky Mountain resort market, show that may be changing.

A press release sent on Nov. 17 from the AAA of Nevada also reports a slight increase in fall travel. According to the release, Thanksgiving travel in the Mountain West is expected to reach its highest numbers since 2007.