Summit County is once again drawing in hordes of visitors during the holidays. According to experts in the local lodging industry, this year’s occupancy is faring just as well as last year and 2019. But more telling is that the average daily rate for most stays is up significantly compared to the past couple of years.
Peter Reeburgh, owner of SummitCove Vacation Lodging in Keystone, manages about 327 rentals, and he reported that bookings are “holding steady” compared to 2019. Reeburgh said occupancy was hovering at around 40% at the beginning of December and it would spike up to 60% to 70% on the weekends.
Friday, Dec. 17, is when Reeburgh said his business had its ”first big holiday bump,” and through Friday, Dec. 24, he had about 75% occupancy in his rentals. Reservations dipped on Christmas Day, but it has risen back up again for Dec. 26 and though Jan. 3.
Reeburgh said the average daily rate for his rentals are increased too, and that this is driven by the market. Though he didn’t provide numbers, Reeburgh said visitors are paying more money for the same units than they were in 2019.
William Fuller, owner of Summit County Mountain Retreats, also reported that bookings and occupancy were similar to how they were in years past, but his average daily rates is what’s grabbing his attention. He said the rates are up 30% or more per night compared to last year. Compared to 2019, his average daily rates are “significantly” higher even still.
Fuller said he attributes this to pent-up demand for traveling, and that many of these bookings are longer than in past years too.
“This year, it’s rebounded beyond anything we’ve seen before,” Fuller said. “I don’t know the exact number, but my gut is that we’re averaging more like five- and six-night lengths of stays and those are, from our perspective, the best types of reservations because they also tend to be the highest dollar reservations. They are being booked from people who are out of state that are taking their big winter vacation. Those are the people that pay the most.”
Both Fuller and Reeburgh’s operations are based in Keystone, but the same trends were confirmed by Bill Wishowski, director of operations for the Breckenridge Tourism Office. Wishowski said this year’s holiday booking season has been stronger than it was in 2020 and in 2019, and that visitors are making reservations earlier.
Wishowski said the tourism office aggregates data collected from over 50% of licensed short-term rentals in Breckenridge. Using that data, he reported that there are about 12% more reservations on the books compared to last year from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3, and about 14% more than in 2019 for the same period.
After Christmas is when a lot of bookings start to ramp up in Breckenridge. Wishowski said occupancy rates hit around 90% in late December — specifically the past few days of the month.
Like Fuller and Reeburgh, Wishowski said the average daily rate in Breckenridge is up too, though he didn’t provide any numbers.
“Demand is really strong,” Wishowski said. “Americans want to travel and the economic outlook has been pretty good as far as jobs recovering and jobs available. … I think people want to travel and this is a great place to come to.”
Though the numbers are strong, Reeburgh said he’s starting to see some visitors take a few extra precautions in light of the omicron variant. Reeburgh said his housekeeping staff reported that kitchens were dirtier during the height of the pandemic than they were before, and Reeburgh believed this has to do with visitors staying in to eat.
“This summer we still saw that kitchens were fairly dirty, but it kind of went down a little bit as people were dining outside and the weather was nice,” Reeburgh said. “We are definitely seeing kitchens being dirtier again, which means people are staying inside the properties more, cooking more meals inside their own property.”
While this may be the case, Fuller said he’s not seeing any obvious trends or feedback from visitors about the virus. Fuller said visitors are canceling their reservations at a higher rate than before the pandemic because of virus-related concerns, but that this is still happening at a significantly slower rate than spring 2020.