TAPP gives fairly somber prediction of summer

Expecting declines in lodging, drive market and air travel

By Katherine Nettles

The Gunnison Valley Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) predictions for this summer season are that both tourism and prosperity will be in decline, as a possible economic reset brings overall tourism numbers closer nationally and locally to what they were pre-pandemic. 

In a report to the Gunnison Valley RTA on Friday, May 5, TAPP executive director John Norton provided various indicators of a down drive market, air market and lodging market for the Gunnison Valley as a whole, and indicated his organization has been reaching out to let businesses and especially lodging entities know this year may not be big on returns. 

“We had a solid air winter until March, where we fell out of bed,” said Norton of the year so far. “I think skier days also fell out of bed.” However, he reported that even with the March drops in air and skier markets, the winter season was probably “our best ever, in terms of lodging revenue.” 

Norton said he expected the next batch of Local Marketing District (LMD) reports, which typically lag by a few months, to show a 20% decline in lodging revenues across the valley this spring compared to numbers from last year. Downtown Crested Butte, he noted, has already reported such a decline in their sales taxes. “I think that is going to be shared across the board,” he wagered. 

In terms of lodging and airline reservations, May was down 28%, and summer so far is down 17%. “And as we look across the nation, there is declining national demand for tourism,” said Norton. “There’s no region of the country that is showing positive numbers compared with last year.” He said the outlooks among tourism market predictors are that the western region of the U.S. such as California, Oregon and Washington appear to be facing the worst hit. “The Rockies are a little better,” he said.

Norton said he still expects the lodging revenue numbers this summer to come out stronger than they were pre-pandemic, or in 2019. But nationally, he said the lodging revenue outlooks seem set to drop below 2019 rates.

Norton said that in preparation, TAPP is trying to temper expectations.

“We’ve written to all the properties in the valley and advised that the outlook doesn’t look good. And that while they’ve enjoyed pretty big gains in ADR (average daily rates) and occupancy over the last four or five years, that appears to be coming to an end. And they may not be able to push their pricing as much as they have, in the face of a declining demand even though their operating costs have almost certainly gone up with continuing inflation.”

Norton said the air marketplace for the Gunnison-Crested Butte airport (GUC) will look similar to last year in terms of options. United will carry flights to and from Houston and the boutique airline carrier JSX will make trips to and from Dallas. “I’m kind of grateful we don’t have American starting this summer from Dallas—I think we’d have our hands full,” commented Norton. 

“I don’t think we’re going to have a strong summer,” he summarized of both the drive and air markets. But he noted that the drive market “kind of abandoned us a bit this ski season while the air market didn’t.”

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