Resort occupancy drops for first time since 2011-12 |

Resort occupancy drops for first time since 2011-12

Amanda Rhoades
A skier walks through the Village in the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif. on Dec. 21, 2017.
Amanda Rhoades / Sierra Sun |

Tahoe winter sports enthusiasts will remember the 2016-17 winter season as the most epic in recent memory because of its record-breaking snowfall totals, but the payoff for local resorts may not be as large as some expected.

Resort occupancy in the western mountain region declined 0.2 percent this winter, resulting in the first decline in winter occupancy since the 2011-12 season, according Colorado-based lodging research firm Destimetrics.

“Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway are definitely having an impact on resort market, but we can’t say exactly how much,” Destimetrics Director of Business Intelligence Tom Foley said in an interview with the Sierra Sun. “The market is fairly new and not yet understood … its like wrestling with smoke.”

On the California side of Lake Tahoe, Airbnb host earnings increased 50 percent this ski season, compared to last winter. The total number of visitors using Airbnb in Lake Tahoe also jumped 48 percent over last ski season’s totals.

On the Nevada side, Incline Village Airbnb guest arrivals increased by 93 percent. In Stateline, they increased by 78 percent.

Destimetrics is working on a way to better understand the short-term rental market, or “rent-by-owner marketplace” in the coming months, Foley said. However, he said they’re too early in the planning phase to explain the details of how that process will work.

“We can really strongly infer that market is having an impact on resort market, but we can’t say exactly how much, yet,” he said.

Foley added that although the western mountain resorts saw a slight dip in occupancy this winter, the markets in California, Nevada and Oregon did slightly better.

“The far west, California, Nevada and Oregon actually increased in occupancy for the winter season … so it was more successful, but the caveat that needs to be considered is that the Sierra Nevada was coming off of a bad last few years,” he said. “The far west did outperform the Rockies in occupancy gains.”

Bookings for the upcoming month of May through October are up 1.2 percent compared with the same time period last year, except for June and July, which are down about one percent according to a report from Destimetrics.

“The job creation and unemployment figures are looking very positive right now, but concerns about earnings continue to persist and is the indicated explanation for the dip in consumer confidence last month,” Foley said in an email statement from the company. “However, volatile market forces including geo-politics, an unfamiliar style of governance in Washington D.C., and unpredictable summer weather are wild cards that can create shifts in recreational travel behavior. So, to some degree, we recognize that you have to expect the unexpected these days.”

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

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