Little Nell hotel

The Little Nell hotel in Aspen last week. The lodging business in Aspen has taken a major hit due to the coronavirus pandemic and its related ski area closures, with Aspen’s central reservations agency forecasting a 17 percent decline in total winter business.

The central reservations agency serving Aspen and Snowmass lodges is estimating that 17 percent of the winter’s total business has dried up due to the coronavirus pandemic and its related ski area closures.

The March occupancy report released Thursday by Stay Aspen Snowmass was a departure from recent communications from the Aspen Skiing Co.-owned organization, which up until late February was having a strong year in terms of the tourism economy. The report notes that February was one of the strongest months on record, edging last winter’s record month by 1.1 percent, and that November through February was roughly even with last year’s high numbers.

“I was getting very used to declaring new records in these reports, and look forward to the next record we break. I fear it will not be for a while,” says the report’s narrative written by SkiCo’s Vice President of Sales Kristi Kavanaugh.

The numbers included in the report, compiled by the firm Destimetrics, only track activity on the books through Feb. 29. But Kavanaugh’s summary notes that going into March, bookings were down 2 percent “as future booking pace in February had already started to decline in light of growing economic and health concerns.”

“The first week of March, our community became directly impacted by COVID-19 and pace dropped considerably,” the report says. “Once it was reported in week two that we had presumptive positives, the cancellations began to outpace the new bookings. Of course, the announcement from the governor to close down skiing statewide on Saturday, March 14, created a cascade of cancellations and subsequent business closures.”

The report continues, “While clarity on the full scope of business ramifications throughout the community is murky, we can share that [Stay Aspen Snowmass] is forecasted to lose 17% of its full winter business due to the closure.”

Stay Aspen Snowmass is continuing to operate in these trying times, working with guests to rebook their reservations for next winter. They are apparently doing a bang-up job on that, as reservations booked for next winter during this timeframe are up 780% compared to last year, according to the report.

The report also shares that SkiCo will be closing down its offices for two weeks, beginning on Sunday. The main switchboard will not be taking calls, but sales representatives will be on hand to work with guests on rebooking or cancellations.

“While we let the health and government officials manage the health crisis, rest assured there is a small army of tourism sales and marketing leaders diligently working on our economic recovery,” Kavanaugh wrote.

The report also says that SkiCo’s goals through this crisis are to prioritize health and safety, promote recovery efforts, and “stay true to ourselves.”

The report also urges anyone feeling ill to “please continue to stay isolated to limit the spread. Reducing spread will keep people safe, which breeds confidence and ideally will aid in a quicker turnaround for the tourism industry.” 

Kavanaugh notes that she is normally a big fan of Widespread Panic, as in the jam band.

“However, this particular brand of panic is not my jam. March has been the longest year ever,” she writes in the report's opening line, reflecting a feeling held by many.