Among mountain resorts reporting occupancy and other data to the Mountain Travel Research Program, those located in the Eastern United States fared significantly better than those in the west this past winter.
In the West, improving snow conditions and economic news throughout the winter resulted in an aggregated 5.8 percent increase in actual occupancy and an 8.8 percent increase in total lodging revenues, compared to the 2011-12 season, according to MTRiP. Data were
derived from a sample of approximately 260 property management companies in 17 mountain destination communities, representing 24,000 rooms across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, and Oregon and may not reflect the entire mountain destination travel industry. Results may vary significantly among and between resorts and participating properties.
Overall skier days were also up for the season, posting an 11 percent increase to 56.6 million compared to last years dismal numbers according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). However, total visits were still well below the record setting 61 million mark posted in the 2010-11 season.
The rebound was much more dramatic in the east, where MTRiP gathered data from 10 mountain destination communities, representing approximately 6,000 rooms across Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, West Virginia, and Quebec, Canada. The final tally for the season, November through April, revealed an aggregated 18.6 percent increase in occupancy and a 16.8 percent increase in revenue compared to last season. Results for the month of April helped lodging properties end their season on a high note with actual occupancy up a dramatic 28 percent with revenue up a whopping 41.4 percent compared to April 2011.
After a shaky start to the winter season, the new year brought better weather conditions and increasingly positive economic conditions simultaneously-a combination we havent enjoyed for several years, observed Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. While the shift in the Easter holiday to March this year resulted in an anticipated slow April, excellent late season conditions bode well for good ‘snow equity going into next season.
Reservations bode well for summer
As of April 30, advance reservations currently on-the-books for the next six months, May through October, are up an aggregated 8.4 percent compared to the same time last year and overall revenues are trending up 13.9 percent. Increases in bookings are up in all summer months including the historically slow month of May, up 9.9 percent over last year.
Currently, some of the more established summer destinations are now surpassing the all time records set last year during pre-recession times.
MTRiPs ‘econometrics, a monthly review of key economic indicators, focused on some particularly important metrics for travel and tourism. The Unemployment Rate dropped for the third consecutive month, down one basis point to 7.5 percent and the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rebounded from March declines with a 10 percent bump up. Crude oil prices dipped slightly for some slight relief at the pump and while the Consumer Price Index edged up in March, the national inflation rate declined moderately. And, although mainly symbolic for most consumers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued the upward momentum that started in January 2013 and ended the month 12.3 percent higher than April 2012.
We had a couple of hiccups to bookend this ski season with the slow snow start and then a relatively quiet April because of the Easter holiday shifting back to March this year but overall, things are looking pretty good, assures Tom Foley, MTRIPs director of operations. Skiers and snowboarders returned to the mountains last season, financial markets created a sense of returning security, and employers have finally started consistently adding 200,000 plus new jobs each month which will boost consumer confidence in the long run. In combination, that is a lot of good news for mountain tourism, he added.