Inflation may mean less summer tourism in Park City, but big spending by visitors
Park City hotel room prices are rising; that may mean fewer people visiting, but the ones who do are spending more money.
Inflation is hitting every facet of the national economy in numbers not seen since the 80s. The Consumer Price Index rose 8.5 percent in a year, its biggest jump since 1981.
But despite rising prices, travel demand has roared back from the pandemic slowdown.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), some airlines are reporting the highest ticket sales in their history.
With more people traveling out of the country, Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau spokesman Dan Howard says Park City’s summer tourism could decline.
“We’re not going to see the numbers this summer. Last summer we saw more numbers in terms of people. But now, a lot of countries are opening up", said Howard. "Almost everyone knows someone who's in Europe or going to Europe or has international plans that a year ago, were not really on the books. That's actually going to mean that Park City has more competition for those visitors than it has had.”
Even though there may not be as many people coming to town, average daily rates, called ADRs, are up 17% since 2019. ADRs represent the average price of a hotel room – and with that increase, it takes fewer visitors to bring in money.
“And as a consumer, that's frustrating,", he said. "But as someone trying to make sure Park City has the money that it needs, it's a very helpful thing for our county and our town to be caught up in that because our hotels are able to get more revenue from the visitor without necessarily needing more visitors to do it. And that's certainly what we're also seeing this summer.”
Howard says that people tend to book Park City hotel rooms in the summer with an ‘on the fly’ approach, which is very different than the winter months, where bookings often happen months to a year in advance.
“So there will be rooms available, the rates won't be what they are in the winter. And it gives people that more casual approach to booking. And really, it's that ADR, that's the more important driver than how many people come.”
A huge Park City draw and economic engine, the Sundance Film Festival, has been hybrid the last two years. The festival recently announced a hybrid model for 2023 as well. Howard says virtual Sundance has had a surprising outcome for the town.
“So with people being able to attend Sundance virtually, the rooms have been available for skiers," he said. "So Sundance is successful, and our town has been successful ski-wise. And we're seeing those numbers. I mean, our numbers overall for winter, we had 30% higher occupancy than normal, and 40% higher room rate.”
Howard explains getting more revenue per person is a winning strategy for Park City. It means the town doesn’t need as many visitors for a healthy economy.