2020 was off to a great business start when the plague hit the valley and the ski area closed mid-March. January valley lodging revenue was +6% vs January 2019. February grew a whopping 23% vs. the previous February. March looked strong and then we lost half the month. No one could be more surprised than I that March was down only 12% in lodging sales. I expected a decrease of at least 40% and closer to 50%.
That shockingly strong March, considering we only had half the month, left first-quarter lodging revenues +4.4% vs. first quarter, 2019. A minor miracle!
Of course, April and May lodging numbers, when the county reports them, will be dismal. If there is any good news here, May is the smallest month of the year and April the No. 10 month of the year for tourism. There’s a reason we call it “off season.”
And now businesses are preparing for reopening for the heart of the summer, which begins in June, and lodging properties will begin welcoming guests May 27.
On May 15 TAPP launches a $300,000 digital- and social-marketing program, pretty much within Colorado as there are still travel restrictions within our state and other states. Our beautiful trails system is pretty much the message, but included is a short video welcoming folks back and the world premiere of Teton Gravity Research’s latest mountain bike film, “Accomplice,” at the huge Denver Mart Drive-In theater.
There’s reason to be bullish on the valley’s prospects relative to others this summer. One, we have a very strong drive market and we know people don’t want to get on planes. Two, we are not an event-driven summer tourist economy compared to other mountain valleys. Sure, people who are here visit our events, but people come here to hang and to use our trails and fishing streams. Third, people are going to feel safe on our trails. We know that outdoors transmission of the plague is unlikely.
We know people want to travel. And we know people want to feel safe.
What can go wrong? Only a new outbreak of the virus, scaring people away and necessarily precipitating a new round of community health orders. And we can do better than that! We all want to keep opening and opening.
Let’s all stay safe. Not for our own sake, but for everyone’s sake! Let’s all go and have the best business summer we possibly can! And also find some time to get out on our beautiful trails and streams while we’re at it.
-John Norton, Executive Director, Tourism and Prosperity Partnership