Final tourism numbers show sharp increase


Spring forecast not so hot; summer numbers iffy

Despite an early Easter that presented somewhat of a roadblock, Mammoth’s ski season effectively ended on a robust note, according to figures released last week by Mammoth Lakes Tourism.

The tourism numbers from Mammoth were better, overall, than destinations in the mountain west.

Occupancy for March in Mammoth was up 12.2 percent over 2012, while the revenue per available room rose 26.7 percent from a year ago.

However, with Easter this season falling on March 31, April “pacing” numbers, which reflect actual bookings, were off 13.4 percent from 2012, and airplane load numbers showed a decrease across the board among flights from LAX, SFO, San Diego, and Orange County.

Overall for the six-month ski season, occupancy in Mammoth was up 32.4 percent from a year ago, while in the next six months, pacing numbers show a 15.1 percent increase, according to the tourism bureau.

On a regional basis, consumer confidence took a hit during the month of March but other indicators for mountain lodging were positive for the tail end of the ski season and into the first half of the summer.

Actual occupancy in the month of March among destinations participating in the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) was up 9.5 percent compared to the same time last year and the Average Daily Rate (ADR) was up 3.2 percent compared to March 2012.

As of March 31, on-the-books occupancy for April was down a sharp 9.8 percent compared to last April, but was attributed to the timing of the Easter holiday that moved back from April to March this past year.

The MTRiP data is derived from a sample of approximately 260 property management companies in 17 mountain destination communities, representing 24,000 rooms across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, and Oregon.

Looking back over the past six months including five of the ski season months (except April), mountain lodging was up 7.2 percent for the period compared to the same time last year.

“The 2012-13 winter season is finishing up solidly ahead of last year with continued momentum delivering a strong March aided by Easter week moving into March but at the expense of April’s business, which is down despite plentiful snow and some 11th hour bookings—primarily from in-state visitors,” said Ralf Garrison, MTRiP’s director.  

“The winter season will end with increases in both occupancy and rate as well as continued modest growth toward pre-recession levels at most destinations although there was considerable fluctuation among and between individual resorts.”

As the spring shoulder season approaches at mountain resort communities, the focus turns to summer reservations and as of March 31, on-the books occupancy for the next six months, April through September, is up 6.8 percent with gains being posted in every month except April.

May and September are posting the largest increases at 22.1 and 18.2 percent respectively. However these percentages are based on relatively small numbers. 

MTRiP’s monthly briefing to its subscribers also provided a summary and analysis of economic indicators that set the context for summer travel. Continued momentum, a new record high being set, and a 3.7 percent gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from February were viewed positively since the Dow was 10.3 percent higher than a year ago.

However, in sharp contrast to the good news on Wall Street, a sharp 12.2 percent drop in the Consumer Confidence Index marked the eighth decline in the past year and positions the index 14.1 percent lower than the same time last year.

Unemployment also dipped one basis point to 7.6 percent but the decrease was primarily due to more than half a million people dropping out of the job hunt and no longer counted among the unemployed.

“Both sequestration and the next fiscal cliff deadline remain significant pieces of the economic recovery and both are likely to have contributed to the anemic number of new jobs added in March—only 88,000 compared to February when 255,000 new jobs came on line,” said Tom Foley, director of operations for MTRiP.  

“Failure to resolve the debt ceiling issue back in August had a major impact on consumers and the travel industry and with the effects of the slowly-implemented sequestration, the economy could remain unstable in the weeks to come and impact summer tourism.”

Garrison, however, was a bit on the more optimistic side.

“Looking forward to the summer months,” he said, “bookings are trending in a positive direction in all summer months but we are advising our subscribers to keep an eye on the economic storm clouds that keep popping up in our otherwise sunny skies.”