SAM Magazine—Winter Park, Colo., Jan. 18, 2023—An impressive booking pace during December—more than double the pace of the year prior—significantly boosted December and January arrivals at Western destinations, according to the most recent Market Briefing released by DestiMetrics, part of the business intelligence division of Inntopia.December bookings were driven primarily by abundant and widespread early season snow. Yet despite the surge, total bookings didn't quite catch up to December 2021's record. And bookings for February through April lagged the year-ago pace as well.
The monthly report includes lodging data from 17 mountain communities encompassing approximately 28,000 lodging units across seven Western states through Dec. 31.
December’s results were shaped in part by a large shift in school holidays, which moved some visits from pre-Christmas to the first week of January. Many school holidays didn’t begin until Dec. 22 or 23 but then continued through Jan. 2-6, 2023. There are other significant breaks coming between now and the end of this school year that will definitely be impacting the later part of the season.
Compared to last December, occupancy was down 5.1 percent, while average daily rate (ADR) moderated to a 2.3 percent increase. As a result, revenues were only down three percent. Compared to pre-pandemic December 2019, occupancy was up 4.8 percent and ADR up 31.7 percent.
As of Dec. 31, on-the-books occupancy for the full winter from November through April is down 3.8 percent compared to last year, though that's an improvement from the month earlier, when it was down 5.6 percent. January remains the only month in the winter season showing a year-over-year increase, up a slight 1.3 percent. ADR, however, is up 8.7 percent compared to last winter, with increases in every month except November. The result is an aggregated increase in winter revenues of 4.6 percent.
Compared to the winter season of 2019-20, this winter is currently showing a moderate 4.3 percent gain in occupancy, a robust 39.1 percent increase in ADR, and a 45.1 percent increase in winter revenue.
The surge in bookings for arrival in December—112 percent more than the year prior—suggests that guests are booking closer to arrival. January bookings also grew, but by a modest 4.7 percent. Further, bookings during December for arrivals from February through May were all down. Despite those declines for the longer-lead months, December's 6.3 percent gain in booking pace is a positive shift and marks the first year-over-year gain in booking pace since last August.
“As we move through January, actual room nights booked for the remainder of the season are a concern, and ongoing economic uncertainty is still clearly playing a role,” noted Tom Foley, senior vice president of business intelligence for Inntopia. “Fortunately," he added, "great snowfall consistently offsets economic downturns. Though booking lead times shorten in these situations ... as long as the deep snow continues, the current approach to pricing and occupancy should hold up.
“Visitors are tolerating ever-rising rates,” he continued. “But whether that is a sustainable model for destination mountain communities in the months ahead is unclear.”