Few would argue that it hasn’t been a busy summer in the Aspen area. One need only to experience the long, slow line of vehicles stretching from the airport to the roundabout in the mid-morning hours, or the lack of available parking spaces in the commercial core, for evidence of business as usual in the tourism arena.
But data suggests that the summer season got off to a slower-than-normal start in June. The city of Aspen’s monthly consumption report representing June’s retail sales, released last week, shows a slight overall decline compared with the same month last year.
Also, according to Denver-based resort tracking firm DestiMetrics, Aspen and Snowmass Village realized a 4.7 percent decrease in lodging occupancy rates in June compared with June 2018.
“I think sales [at the start of the season] were a bit slower due to the winter-like weather we had in May and June. It’s definitely busy now,” said Earl Rodgers, co-owner of New York Pizza in Aspen.
If retail sales in Aspen were off overall, it wasn’t by much. The city’s report shows overall sales of $66.06 million, a decline of half of 1 percent compared with the same month last year. June accounts for roughly 7.8 percent of the year’s total sales tax collections, the report says.
The breakdown by category may be more telling. Of 12 retail categories, gains were recorded in only two areas: construction, which was up 21.5 percent, and utilities, which was 14 percent higher.
Declines occurred in accommodations (2.1 percent), restaurants and bars (1.4 percent), clothing (7.5 percent), liquor (12.2 percent), luxury goods (5.9 percent) and five other retail sectors.
The DestiMetrics report shows paid occupancy rate decreases of 7.2 percent in Aspen and 2.4 percent in Snowmass for the month of June. The actual rates were 63.3 percent and 48.6 percent, respectively. Combined, the two resorts experienced 57.9 recent occupancy, a 4.7 percent decline.
The locally prepared executive summary that analyzes the Aspen-Snowmass hospitality figures supplied by DestiMetrics offers reasons for the June decline. Combined, June 2018’s combined occupancy rate of 60.8 percent was a new record for June, the summary says. And despite the Snowmass decrease of 2.4 percent, June 2019 represents the resort’s second-best June on record.
“The largest change in Aspen’s performance can be attributed to a large group from last year in early June that did not repeat,” the summary notes. “Additionally, neither [Food & Wine Aspen Classic] nor Ideas Fest occupancies were as high as last year.”
Like Rodgers, the summary mentions less-than-ideal weather conditions at the season’s beginning.
“The weather was likely a contributing factor as summer got a slower start than last year,” the summary says. “The best news based on June’s performance was the increase in booking pace for future months seen in both Aspen and Snowmass.”
Indeed, June bookings for the month of July were slightly ahead of last year’s pace: 65.5 percent compared with 64.3 percent, which represents an increase of 1.9 percent in advance bookings for the combined market as of June 30.
“The Lake Christine fire did disrupt business last July  so once the month is behind us we will have full insight into those effects compared to this year,” the summary adds.
In other news involving local economic indicators, the town of Snowmass Village reported sales tax collections of $116,799 for the month of June, an 11.6 percent increase compared with the same month in 2018.
In addition, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport recently reported to county commissioners that June enplanements — the number of people boarding a plane in Aspen — were up 8.5 percent compared with June 2018.
The city’s consumption report shows that for the first six months of this year, Aspen retailers pulled $399.8 million, a 6.2 percent increase over the first half of 2018.