In mid-February, the 2019-20 winter season at U.S. destination mountain resorts was looking at a strong finish. Then, Covid-19 swept across the country causing the complete shutdown of nearly every ski resort during the height of spring break.
As reported in The Snow Industry Letter, DestiMetrics, a market intelligence aggregator for the destination leisure travel industry, recently announced dramatic changes in occupancy and revenue for March and the full winter season at its recent weekly Market Briefing organized by parent company Inntopia. Destimetrics collected data from nearly 300 lodging properties throughout six western states. The report included results through March 31.
March 2020 actual occupancy plunged 53.7% compared to last March. Average Daily Rate (ADR) for the month was down 3.5% but with the dramatic decrease in occupancy, revenues were down 55.3% compared to March 2019.
Bookings for arrivals in the six months from March through August are down 246.4% compared to bookings made last March for the same six-month arrival period. Occupancy for the six months from November through April is down 19.1% compared to the same time last year. February was the only month to finish with an increase in occupancy compared to last winter. At the time of the report. April was down 94.9%.
From a business perspective, the good news is that a majority of winter revenues were already in the bank before March 15 when virtually every resort closed.
Resorts large and small are getting creative on how to deal with luring customers in a future that includes Covid-19. Ikon has introduced the Adventure Assurance program already covered in this blog. Promoters of the Indy Pass will not initiate Season Pass sales until September when skiers and snowboarders should have a better idea on how winter is shaping up. Indy represents mostly smaller, lesser known resorts.
Now, Magic Mountain, VT is introducing the most emphatic acknowledgement yet by an independent Northeast ski area that the pandemic-induced economic fallout required a new approach to season pass sales.
Magic dropped prices, pushed its early-bird deadline out to mid-June, introduced a payment plan, and launched a menu of new passes, including one for members of the military and first responders, according to a report by The Storm Skiing Journal.
They also switched from the comp ticket-based Freedom Pass and became the first mountain in the region to announce an Indy Pass add-on for a modest $129. While passes will remain non-refundable, the mountain is also the first in the region to guarantee full or partial credit toward 2021-22 passes if additional government-mandated shutdowns curtail or cancel the 2020-21 season.
In the Southwest, Arizona Snowbowl’s new pass promotion emphasizes community, giving back, affordability, and flexibility. One percent of pass sales will go back to businesses affected by the pandemic and the pass includes free insurance.
Supporters of the snow sports industry now are waiting to see if Vail makes adjustments to its Epic Pass now that direct competitor Ikon has raised the bar.