Telluride's summer economy continues on its upward trend, not too surprising, real estate too.....

Another record summer for Telluride

Tourism board: hotel occupancy, average daily rates higher compared with last year

ANDRE SALVAIL, Associate Editor

The summer tourism season has a little ways to go, but preliminary data shows that Telluride is having its busiest summer ever.

“We had five record summers in a row,” said Michael Martelon, CEO of the Telluride Tourism Board. “We’re going to have a sixth.”

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Martelon said he analyzes many economic indicators before making such pronouncements, but the clue that the summer of 2016 would be the best on record in terms of visitors came with Denver-based Destimetrics’ monthly report at the end of June.

Data from Destimetrics, a company that analyzes lodging information for North American mountain travel destinations, forecasted that hotel occupancy and average daily room rates (ADR) for July, August and September would be higher than what was realized during the same months in 2015. The projections were based on advanced bookings. 

June’s occupancy and ADR were up 9 percent and 5 percent respectively when compared with June 2015. Though projections for the three months that follow June involve figures that have yet to become fact, Martelon said eventually the numbers will “turn hard.”

Combined, Telluride and Mountain Village have 2,499 rooms that are professionally managed, Martelon said. That’s taking into consideration all hotel and lodge rooms (705) along with other managed properties (1,794). 

An estimated 741 rooms comprise Telluride’s “gray market” — lodging that is available through internet sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and Craigslist — which is more difficult to track because not all of the market’s property owners have business licenses or pay lodging taxes.

Martelon said hotels and lodges typically have five sold-out days during the summer. These sold-out dates occur during Bluegrass Festival, Fourth of July weekend, The Ride Festival, Telluride Film Festival and Blues & Brews.

While winter tourism activity remains stronger than summer’s, “Telluride is becoming much more of a year-round destination,” he said. “The whole brand is picking up.”

As previously stated, hotel occupancy and ADR are just two pieces of the tourism picture. Martelon also looks at sales-tax revenue, airline activity and other data slices when analyzing the Telluride-area tourism economy.

Looking at the total economic impact of an entire year, “Telluride tourism has become a half-billion-dollar industry,” he said.

Tom Foley, operations director for Destimetrics, said he could not comment specifically on Telluride lodging data — such figures are proprietary and provided for the exclusive use of the local tourism board.

However, Foley did say that Telluride is part of the trend of Colorado and Far West mountain resorts that are having record success during the summer since the 2008-2010 recession, despite their traditional origins as “ski towns.”

Western U.S. ski-resort marketing organizations “have really picked up the ball with regard to summer,” Foley said, “and now they have more guaranteed months of solid revenue.”

He said that Colorado ski towns such as Telluride and Aspen are ahead of the curve with regard to summer activity. Far West ski towns, such as those in California, only began to market their summer offerings in earnest after the recession.

Challenges facing many ski towns, regardless of the season, include a “finite amount of lodging inventory” and growing revenue without raising room rates, Foley said.

“A limitation on beds is creating strain on the marketplace,” he said. 

Also in Western ski towns, there has been some “push back” from consumers regarding properties that hold firm to high room rates during months that are considered dry, with little fresh snow, Foley said.

Mountain resort towns have another common problem, work-force housing, an issue that has been the source of much debate and media attention for several years, Foley added.

“It’s an issue throughout the industry,” he said.