Resort reservations: Short term up, long term down
TRUCKEE-TAHOE ” Lower prices appear to be attracting hesitant travelers who recently saw a decrease in travel-related costs, according to the Mountain Travel Monitor Report recently released by the Mountain Travel Research Program.
Short-term reservations are strong, and were particularly solid in late November when snow and last minute deals sparked an increase in visitors, the report said.
Local resorts seem to be right in step with Travel Monitor data ” which surveys 216 property management companies in 15 mountain resorts in the western United States and Canada ” as the amount of recent reservations have increased due to the significant snow accumulations.
Northstar-at-Tahoe has seen its reservation volume double with the snowfall, according to Communications Manager Jessica VanPernis; however, lodging reservations prior to the snowfall were up compared to this time last year.
“Our spike in calls, inquiries, pass sales and reservations has been nothing short of impressive,” said John Monson, Director of Marketing for Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. “We went from fielding one to two phone calls a day for our 27-room lodge to at least 15 to 20 once the snow started to fly.”
“We’re up 40 percent in the last week,” said Bill O’Connor, Reservations Agent for the Resort at Squaw Creek.
Squaw Creek is about 80 percent full for Christmas reservations at this time, which is less than previous years when they had sold out reservations for the Christmas and New Year holidays, O’Connor said.
Sugar Bowl is “more or less all booked up,” said Monson.
But despite the spikes in sales and reservations, ski resorts are not out of the woods yet.
“At this point, this season is unlike any other in memory,” said Ralf Garrison, Mountain Travel Symposium founder and author of the report. “The final results for this season will depend on several key factors including the economy, amount of snowfall, and the aggressiveness of promotional efforts and programs,” he added.
In the meantime, however, gas prices are becoming a huge factor in holiday travel. Good news for skiers and riders from the Bay Area and Sacramento looking to get a few days in on the slopes this holiday season.
The national retail average price in the U.S. for a gallon of regular gas was $1.673 on Friday, according to the Associated Press. That is about 37 cents a gallon below what it was a month ago and more than $2.43 below where it was in July when prices peaked at $4.11 per gallon.
And AAA forecasts more than 8.6 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more from their homes to celebrate the end-of-year holidays.
“The significant reduction in the cost of gasoline has been insufficient to offset concerns over unemployment, job security and loss of disposable income,” said Cynthia Harris, spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “But despite these fears, many will still be venturing out of town, and we can expect packed airplanes and congested highways.”
According to VanPernis, the majority of Northstar’s reservations have been people from Northern California.
But while the success of ski resorts is forecast to hinge on a few key factors this season, only time will tell what the economic downturn has in store for the industry.
“Resorts and lodging properties need to remember that ‘it ain’t over ’til it’s over,” cautioned Garrison. “Businesses that want to weather these turbulent times need to remain up-to-date on changing economic variables and then be flexible in finding ways to take care of their loyal guests,” he added.