Lake Tahoe resort lodging reservations on the rise, mirror national trend | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe resort lodging reservations on the rise, mirror national trend

Matt Welch
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; The end of January marked the halfway point in the ski season, and according to mountain travel researchers, reservations and occupancy in mountain resorts continued to edge up though remaining slightly behind last year’s low figures.

At Lake Tahoe, a number of area lodging companies are seeing reservation and occupancy increases over last season, officials said, and those jumps have accelerated in 2010.

The Village at Squaw Valley has seen a 24 percent improvement over last year and#8212; 3,100 more nights booked so far, said general manager Christy Beck. Beck said the resort hopes to exceed even its 2008 numbers this season.

and#8220;Everything fell into place this year,and#8221; Beck said. and#8220;It’s just been really strong.and#8221;

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.

and#8220;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,and#8221; Donovan said.

Recommended Stories For You

On Wednesday, the Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) said winter occupancy measured from November-April is down 1 percent and#8212;-a slight improvement from Dec. 31 when it was down 3 percent.

and#8220;It’s nice to finally be in a position to say something positive,and#8221; said Ralf Garrison, industry analyst and director of MTRiP. and#8220;February and March are also looking good.and#8221;

The program also said 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.

MTRiP’s study surveyed 201 property management companies in 15 destinations in Colorado, Utah, California and British Columbia.

Tammie Anstedt, marketing director at Tahoe Mountain Resorts lodging, said Tahoe Mountain has seen growth over last year, beginning in December. She said the economic conditions have made the Tahoe area attractive to guests who live nearby.

and#8220;I think that the whole theory of the and#8216;staycation’ is playing a factor. A good number of our guests are drive guests who come from the San Francisco Bay Area,and#8221; Anstedt said.

In Incline Village, Don Cauley, general manager of Vacation Station, said his business is seeing a slight improvement over last year in bookings, and February has seen an 8 percent increase over last year as well.

But Cauley is less optimistic about the current gains, saying new developments near Northstar-at-Tahoe may have taken visitors away from Incline.

and#8220;It’s kind of like what they’re saying about unemployment. It’s less bad, but still bad,and#8221; Cauley said.

The growth in visitors staying nights has helped other businesses, too. Donovan said MontBleu’s other operations, including the casino, nightclub and restaurants, have benefited as occupancy numbers have grown.

and#8220;Year-over-year, that’s trickled down to everything else,and#8221; he said.

Beck 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.

and#8220;Whoever gets the first snow, and a lot of it, gets the destination visitors early,and#8221; Beck said.

Cauley said the gains aren’t breaking records or as good as three or four years ago, but he’s happy to see people beginning to have enough confidence in the economy to take trips.

and#8220;People are beginning to be more open to taking vacations. We’re pleased.and#8221; Cauley said.

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.