Tourism demand slumps | SierraSun.com

Tourism demand slumps

Sun Staff Report
Courtesy MTRiPClick the following photo to enlarge the graphic.
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DENVER, Colo. “-In the latest data released by a tourism-industry watchdog, called the Mountain Travel Research Program, overall demand is down in the tourist industry.

The Program cited reasons like record-breaking low levels of consumer confidence, increasing unemployment figures, slow consumer reaction to the recent stimulus package legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, and continued declines on Wall Street.

“Overall demand is down, damaged by the long-term negative market forces,” said Ralf Garrison, who directs the research.

Consumers have reacted by changing their spending habits and their reluctance to make purchases has been described as a “destruction of demand.”

Reservations taken in February for the upcoming six months improved slightly, up 3.0 percent over last year’s pace and showing strength for short-term February arrivals.

“At this time of year, booking momentum slows dramatically,” reports Garrison. “While MTRiP data does not forecast future bookings, we’re not anticipating any significant changes for March or April business despite a recent shift to last minute bookings.”

Looking forward, lodging reservations for March as of Feb. 28 were running significantly behind last year. Occupancy is down 25 percent and daily room rates are down 12 percent.

April is holding steady with reservations flat and room rates up 7 percent, primarily because of the Easter holiday falling in April this year instead of March as it did in 2008. This holiday timing partially explains reservation weakness in March and improvements for April this year.

These broad economic indicators are having a significant impact on the ski industry and mountain travel destinations. Cumulative occupancy for February 2009 among participating resorts was 54.5 percent compared to 63.9 percent last year, down 14.9 percent. The average daily rate for the same time period was down 8.6 percent.

The Consumer Confidence Index dropped 33.7 percent in February to 25.0 ” its lowest level since it was introduced in 1967. Unemployment figures rose for the third consecutive month with more than 650,000 jobs lost in February for a total of 12.2 million unemployed nationally.

The Consumer Price Index was up slightly, 0.4 percent, and the Travel Price Index was down for the fifth consecutive month, a slight drop of 1.6 percent.

SOURCE: Data is derived from a sample of 216 property management companies in 15 mountain destination communities across Colorado, Utah, California, and British Columbia.

For more than 34 years, representatives from mountain-resort businesses have gathered each Spring to establish relationships, initiate and complete contracts, and take the first steps toward making the upcoming season an even greater success. Keystone, Colo., is hosting the 2009 Mountain Travel Symposium. The Sierra Sun will be covering the symposium every step of the way with updates, photos and in-depth articles from the proceedings. Starting March 29, go to http://www.sierrasun.com/mts for daily coverage of this annual event.