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Park City Lodging Industry Looks Ahead At Uncertain Occupancy Rates For Upcoming Ski Season

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UTAH STATE OFFICE OF TOURISM/PAUL MORRISON PHOTOGRAPHY
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Hotels in Park City took a big blow to occupancy rates at the start of the pandemic, and with an uncertain ski season looming, it’s unclear what the winter will bring. 

Hotels were at 70-80% occupancy before coronavirus shut downs. And in March of this year, occupancy went down to less than 20%, according to Danny Williams, president of the Park City Area Lodging Association. He spoke with KPCW earlier this week.

 

He said business was slow at the beginning of the pandemic but hotels made a recovery during the summer months. 

“Park City, being a leisure market like it is, had a fairly good summer, both with upscale and midscale hotels,” Williams said. “But it was a pretty good summer especially for leisure travelers.”

And he said right now business is a little slow, and many hotels are waiting for a ski season - even though that’s uncertain as well. 

“We have thrown what we call ‘pace report’ and ‘booking reports’ out the window,” he said. “We rely on those a lot for future bookings for future business. So we're seeing just a potpourri of changes in bookings and cancellations. We have no real way of looking at pace right now.”

But he said one trend they have seen is that more people are booking hotels for the week before Christmas rather than the week of Dec. 25.

Looking ahead, there are a couple of things that will determine the fate of how hotels will fare during the ski season.

 

“I think the two things are going to affect the ski travel industry is going to be snowfall, of course, as always, and restrictions both county and statewide, whether it's Colorado or Wyoming or, or Utah,” he said. 

But COVID restrictions in Colorado and Wyoming will likely be similar to Utah’s. And Williams said restrictions probably won’t hold back a certain type of person. 

“I think there's going to be our core base skiers out there that want to go skiing no matter what they're going to use the reservation systems required at some of the resorts or come on out here,” he said. “I think the ones we don't know about are the ones that are a little bit reluctant on getting on an airplane. I think we're going to be a more of a drive winter market this year.”

He said even though there isn’t as much demand for hotels, prices still haven’t dropped much. 

“When occupancy drops, rate tends to follow because people just think they can create more demand by dropping rates,” he said. “And you really can't create more demand. Demand’s static. You can create more competition, of course, and try to take more market share from your competitors, but you're just hurting your own business as well as the competition as well. So even though occupancies have dropped significantly, rate is staying pretty strong.” 

Williams said they’ve seen rates drop by about 10-15%. And he encouraged hotels to keep rates steady and offer discounts and specials for advanced purchases instead.

 

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