Christmas hotel booking pace down 25%, revenue on par; are we finding balance for Park City?

PARK CITY, Utah — Locals will definitely rejoice in fewer people in town and on the mountain. But dips in Park City’s hotel occupancy can seem like a scary thing to local business owners and the health of the local economy; fewer people in town equals less revenue, right? According to the Park City Chamber of Commerce | Visitors and Business Bureau (PCCVB) daily occupancy report as of November 15, the 25% drop in hotel occupancy is exactly what it is hoping for to create balance and happiness for the local community.

In line with the Sustainable Tourism Plan, PCCVB’s goal is fewer visitors with the same or higher revenue, a win-win for business owners and full-time residents.

22/23 Bookings (blue) versus 21/22 Bookings (red) as of Nov 15 for each year. The Retail Report can project where the occupancy is expected to be based on previous year’s bookings and the current booking pace, according to Howard.

“The Chamber is committed to the sustainable tourism plan, and that means that the health of our economy, which is very important to us, is on an equal footing with the quality of life for our locals,”

said Dan Howard, PCCVB vice president of communications. “We’ve heard that especially last year and the first year of COVID, there were a lot of people in town, and locals were not as comfortable with that. [The Chamber] feels that if we can achieve the revenue that the town needs and do it with fewer people in town, then that’s the sweet spot.”

Howard explained the key figure, and what isn’t shown in the occupancy reports is the average daily room rate (ADR). The Chamber is happy with these occupancy rate drops because of the strength of the ADR. With a higher ADR, hotels can earn the same revenue with lower occupancy. But it’s not just hoteliers that benefit from high ADRs.

“Because the ADR is where it is, who we’re attracting right now are some of the best visitors that you could hope to get from a spending standpoint,” Howard said. “They’re paying more to stay here than they ever have, and that’s good news for [business owners.] It really is a good thing for restaurants and retailers; they should have more customers who are buying instead of window shopping.”

This report shows bookings currently versus pre-pandemic bookings in 2019. However, an on the books report only shows what has been paid for on the day the report is run.

Although hotel rates are based mostly off market demand, PCCVB isn’t sitting and twiddling its thumbs. In accordance with the Sustainable Tourism Plan, PCCVB has shifted from a push marketing to a pull marketing strategy. Instead of blasting advertisements to visit our slice of paradise, PCCVB is more focused on finding the right consumers.

“We’re doing a more effective job of targeting the best possible visitor; we have some new tools in our marketing arsenal that we didn’t use to have. That has to do with cookies, following people who are searching for particular messages, including sustainability. If someone is interested in sustainable getaways, we want to be coming up in that conversation because it means that the visitor that we’re really looking for is more respectful of Park City. We’re getting more sophisticated with that process, and I think all hotels are doing something similar. I think the residents, hopefully, see the genuine effort that the chamber is making to prioritize quality of life, just over pure revenue.”

As winter moves forward, locals know to expect “pinch points” in visitor traffic. The three major pinch points are “festive,” which is the Christmas and holiday break until the new year, Sundance Film Festival, and Presidents Day Weekend. Aside from these time periods, the Chamber hopes that the winter will be more manageable for residents, especially after the ever-present and lingering COVID side effects.

Now that COVID has become less deadly and threatening, travel opportunities have opened up, and travelers have more options in destinations. The equation of higher ADRs, more freedom of traveling, and better-targeted marketing may equal a balanced winter season for locals, hotels, and business owners.

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