Western mountain destinations posted a 15.8% increase in actual occupancy compared to September 2009 according to the latest data released by Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP). This represents the biggest monthly increase in more than two years and first increase over pre-recession levels in 2008. 

The data also revealed that increased occupancy occurred without further discounting since the Average Daily Rate (ADR) was only down 0.8% compared to last year. 


This marked the fourth consecutive month of higher occupancy and better rates in mountain destinations.  MTRiP also reported that overall on-the-books occupancy at participating resorts for the next six months is currently up 3.3% while the booking pace was brisk during September with a 14.9% increase in rooms booked for arrivals in September through February. 

“The overall economy remains precarious which has forced mountain resorts to really earn the business they are getting. Fortunately, they seem to be doing just that,” observed Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP.  “The unusually warm weather and vibrant fall colors brought customers flocking to the mountains and drove September occupancy levels ahead of both September 2009 and 2008 which is great news for the mountain resorts.”

“Less favorable business and labor market conditions are cited for the decline and consumers continue to be pessimistic about both the short- and long-term prospects for the economy,” explained Tom Foley, research analyst for MTRiP.  “However, right now consumers appear willing to commit discretionary spending toward travel and recreation in the mountain travel industry but with shaky consumer confidence, there is no guarantee that the travel industry will continue to outpace other segments.”

The Travel Price Index declined one percent, its first drop since December 2009, but still remains 3.2 percent above August of 2009 indicating that the travel industry continues to outperform other segments of the economy.

MTRiP also gathers data on upcoming reservations.  Currently, on-the-books occupancy for October is up 7.8% compared to the same period in 2009.  The report also noted that advance bookings are up in five of the next six months with the strongest gains in November and March.

“Mountain resorts had higher occupancy and better rates during four of the six summer months and in four of the five winter months,” summarized Garrison.  “Those figures combined with a positive booking pace are encouraging signs but overall gains remain modest so far. If customer demand remains relatively tepid, competition among resorts is likely to remain strong, and individual results may vary widely,” he cautioned.

MTrIP survey data come from a sample of 265 property management companies in 15 mountain destination communities, representing 24,000 rooms across Colorado, Utah, California, and Oregon and may not reflect the entire mountain destination travel industry. Results may vary significantly among/between resorts and participating properties.