Report: Utah mountain resorts experiencing summer surge
Locals trying to escape record heat by heading to resorts in Park City or the Cottonwood Canyons this summer probably have seen more people there.
But Salt Lake-area lodging owners experienced relatively flat or even declining occupancy rates in 2013.
Two reports issued this week offered a look at how Utah's lodging industry is faring so far this year.
Recent data released by Denver-based DestiMetrics, which surveys 17 mountain resorts, show that many could be experiencing a record year.
"Current summer business bookings have already reached 85 percent of last summer's final total and with additional bookings yet to come, we can project a 10 to 12 percent increase in summer revenue," said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics. "While results vary widely among destinations, many resorts have now surpassed their pre-recession performance levels and are on track for their best summer ever."
Garrison said reasons for the excellent summer include an improving economy, growing consumer confidence and a maturing summer market with more attractions that serve as magnets to draw visitors.
That seems to be the case for Park City and Snowbird.
Amy Kersey of the Park City Chamber of Commerce said the area has offered visitors more than 300 events this summer, something that has driven summer business. Several major group meetings are booked in September. And recent awards from the International Mountain Biking Association, along with Outside magazine touting Park City, certainly haven't hurt.
"We are having a bigger push to make it a four-season destination rather than just winter or winter and summer," she said.
Snowbird's Emily Moench said the Little Cottonwood Canyon resort's opening of the multimonth Oktoberfest last weekend was the best in its 41-year history. The resort also experienced a record-breaking Sunday brunch.
"Business is great," she said. "We always have a flurry [of calls] on Thursday as people are looking to get rooms for the cool air, family events or Oktoberfest," she said. "Our summer activities are gaining in popularity. â¦ It's mostly locals who are booking the lodging."
Things don't appear quite as good in the Salt Lake Valley for hotel and motel owners.
The most recent Rocky Mountain Lodging Report said Salt Lake City's to-date occupancy percentage dropped from 73.9 percent at this time a year ago to 72.9 percent this year. That same report showed statewide lodging occupancy to be flat.
"We do not consider [the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report] to be the best source for information on the lodging industry in Salt Lake County because so few hotels report to RMLR," said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. "We use and follow the Smith Travel Research report and they are saying that the [transient room tax] is up 1.3 percent this year."
The Rocky Mountain Lodging Report disagreed with the DestiMetrics statistics. Its figures show only a 1.3 percent increase in Utah mountain resort lodging over a year ago. According to the RMLR, St. George has experienced the biggest occupancy jump this year in Utah, rising 7.3 percent to date.