Busier seasons expected to change downward lodging trend

Phil Castle, The Business Times

While hotel and motel business in the Grand Valley slowed through the first four months of the year, busier summer and fall seasons are expected to reverse the trend.

“Things do look better for May, June and beyond,” said Barb Bowman, division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.

  An increase in visits to the VCB website constitutes an encouraging leading indicator of upcoming travel plans. And a combination of ongoing and new events is expected to draw more visitors to the area, she said.

By the end of the year, Bowman hopes a decline in lodging tax collections, a measure of hotel and motel stays, will be erased or at least reduced.

According to the VCB report for April, $79,596 in lodging taxes were collected, 4.5 percent less than the same month last year. Since reports lag a month behind, the April report reflects hotels and motel stays in March.

For reports for the first four months of 2013, a total of $253,150 in lodging taxes were collected. That’s 7.7 percent less than what was reported for the same span in 2012.

Prior to December, lodging tax collections had increased on a year-over-year basis 16 consecutive months. Since December, tax collections have dropped five straight months.

Bowman said the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report for March reflected a slightly higher occupancy rate and revenue per room for Grand Junction hotels and motels compared to the same month last year, although the average daily rate charged for rooms dropped.

A number of factors could be to blame for declining hotel and motel stays,  Bowman said, including cold and snowy weather earlier this year and a drop in corporate travel that’s especially important during the first quarter.

Bowman expects the trend to change during the busier summer and fall seasons, however.

There were 25,358 unique visits to the  VCB website during April, a 14.7 percent increase over the same month last year. The latest gain brings total visits through the first four months of 2013 to 83,064, a 15.4 percent increase over the same span in 2012. Bowman said the increase is encouraging because website visits offer a leading indicator of subsequent travel plans.

Ongoing and new events and meetings are expected to draw more visitors to the Grand Valley during the summer and fall, she said. Coming attractions include a bluegrass music festival scheduled for Palisade in July and a new mountain bike race and car show planned for the Labor Day weekend.

By the end of 2013, Bowman said she hopes lodging tax collections will at least match  those for 2012, although a 2 percent or 3 percent decline might be more realistic.