TELLURIDE - Telluride Ski Resort owner Chuck Horning announced this week that skier visits this year to date are up five percent from last season.
But Horning added that it is not yet clear if the increase will translate to increased revenues due to heavy use of discounted lift tickets.
Nonetheless, Horning said, “I think we’re on the right track and the community is on the right track.”
The strong skier visitation numbers do seem to have produced an increase in commercial activity in the region, as the 2013-2014 holiday season brought with it year-over-year increases in many hotels, stores and restaurants.
“I think looking back, we’ll see that it was a good holiday season,” said Michael Martelon, president and CEO of the Telluride Tourism Board. “The early snow helped attract people, but the reasons behind the increase in business activity stems from that as well as a combination of new marketing efforts by TTB, Colorado Flights and Telski – as well as improved airline traffic.”
This fall, TTB, Telski and Colorado Flights announced a collaborative marketing effort. At the same time, the Telluride Ski Resort hired the same agency that the TTB uses, Backbone Media, to engage in more aggressive and pinpointed marketing outreach initiatives, particularly in digital media.
The combined marketing efforts, Martelon said, certainly played a role in the growth in air traffic and increased hotel occupancy rates.
“With great snow, coordinated marketing and added seats from core markets this holiday season, we saw a strong year-over-year performance,” said Matt Skinner, chief operating officer for Colorado Flights, an organization that attracts air service to the Telluride and Montrose airports. “Highlights include an 11 percent increase in total passengers for the two week period, and a six percent increase in December load factors on our guaranteed flights.”
Skinner expressed optimism that the trend will continue past the holidays.
“We have a great opportunity this spring as well, with added seats from Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, plus our low-cost Allegiant flights and regular service, to really grow visitation this winter. I’ve been impressed with the destinations’ combined efforts to get the word out so far, and hope that will continue in the second half.”
With the increase in air passengers visiting Telluride and the region, Martelon sees dollar signs for the region’s businesses.
“Visitors typically spend 30 percent of their travel budget on lodging, another 30 to 34 percent is on food and beverage, while the rest is spent on retail and utilities,” he added.
Hotels Report Strong Occupancy
Todd Gehrke, director of sales and marketing for the Hotel Madeline, said his hotel saw a year-over-year increase in occupancy rates from 2012.
“It’s been a great season and the numbers are definitely up for most of the community I would imagine,” he said, adding that while he couldn’t release any financial information to outside sources, he expects the hotel will report about an increase of three percentage points in hotel occupancy rates from December 2012, and on overall 10 percentage point increase year over year.
The Lumière in Mountain Village also saw an increase over the holiday season.
“We’ve had a fantastic New Year’s and beginning of January,” said Lumière general manager Clare Evans. “In fact, we were completely sold out from Dec 27 through Jan 12. We exceeded December 2012 numbers, and it looks like we’re already 25.1 percent ahead of this time over last year.”
“With Christmas and New Years both falling on Wednesdays, that treated us well,” said Amanda Acosta, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Telluride. “Lots of people arrived early for Christmas, and similarly, arrived early for New Year’s.”
One off-note is that the hotels have not booked as many groups for later in the season as they have in previous years.
“But group sales are cyclical,” Martelon said. “Although this is an off-year for Telluride, we can capitalize on a stronger leisure market and groups will be back.”
‘Non-stop for Ten Days’
While the holiday season was the first for the Village Table, a Mediterranean restaurant in Mountain Village, owner John Gerona, said he’s pleased with how his restaurant performed.
“Since this is our first season in Mountain Village, I have nothing to base it on, other than we were quiet from Dec 10 through Dec 23, but were then non-stop for ten days,” he said.
“We offered a prefixe menu on New Year’s Eve, which went flawlessly, and served nearly 130 people that night. We also did a few catering functions as well. I’m optimistic and happy with how our restaurant and staff worked.”
Lucas Price, owner of La Cocina de Luz in Telluride, said that business at his restaurant was good, but did not noticeably exceed his sales from last year’s holiday season.
“We had very strong holiday numbers, it was great, but nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “We had some strong breakfast and lunches, and made up for lost ground. It was good to make up some lost money from other parts of the season.”
Retailers also celebrated a healthy holiday season.
Telluride Trappings & Toggery waited for much of December to see an increase in sales due to an earlier-than-usual Noel Night that was off compared to previous years.
“It felt like we waited for it to get busy, and then the week of Christmas and the week after exceeded our expectations,” said Toggery co-owner Wendy Basham. “We made a bet to increase our inventory this year, filling up the story with items. It was a leap of faith, but it paid off.”
Also located on Telluride’s main street, the Jagged Edge, which sells outdoor equipment, said they saw healthy traffic through the holidays.
“I’d say the last few weeks have seen increases over the year before,” said owner Erik Dalton. “Our Noel Night was a hair weaker than last, but the holidays were stronger. All in all, our December was up compared with last December.”