Lodging industry shows strength

Despite mixed news on the national economy, some good and most of it bad, tourism in Pagosa Springs appears to be bucking the trend, with positive lodging tax revenues reported for the period of November 2008 through February 2009.

“We’re not sure how the rest of the year will play out,” said Jennie Green, Town Tourism Committee coordinator, “but this is really good news.”

According to the report, lodging tax revenues increased 5.31 percent over the same period last year. Additionally, each month of the season increased from the same month the previous winter season. For instance, November saw a 9.19 percent increase, December saw a .89 percent rise, January saw a 2.91 increase and February was up an astounding 13.46 percent.

“I was pleasantly surprised at February’s big increase,” Green said, “A thirteen percent increase — that was really significant.”

The report broke down different property types which showed that, while hotels were down 6.76 percent for the season and ranches/cabins saw a 3.7 percent decrease, motels were up 5.9 percent. Vacation rentals showed a 47.01 percent increase.

An increased volume of timeshare visitor activity in the Pagosa area most likely contributed a great deal to the reported lodging tax revenue increase — up 133.97 percent from last year.

“We are pleased that, despite the current economic climate, the overall tourism market in Pagosa Springs is faring well,” said TTC Chairman Bob Hart, “We have many exciting things happening in 2009, so hopefully we’ll continue to see these trends.”

Hoping that technology will help to build on the trend, the TTC will launch a central reservation system on its visitor’s Web site at visitpagosasprings.com in order to facilitate online bookings for local lodging.

“People are booking over ninety percent of travel online, now,” said Green. “By providing a central reservation system, it basically allows visitors to the Pagosa Springs Web site to immediately book their travel.”

Green points to similar systems on the Durango and Telluride Web sites that provide central reservation capabilities for visitors to those sites. “Durango has seen a large increase in visitors since they implemented this system,” she said.

However, getting local lodgers on board with the system is another matter and Green concedes she has her work cut out for her in trying to convince local lodgers that the system will work to their benefit.

“The success of the central reservation system is dependant on the number of properties and events that sign up,” Green said.

With a proposed “soft launch” of the system planned for April 15 and a tentative date of May 1 for the system to go completely on line, Green has little time to move some local lodgers into the information age. Not discouraged, Green believes that local lodgers will eventually agree that a central reservation system will work to their benefit.

“I think it levels the playing field for all lodgers,” Green said. “Really, this benefits everyone.”

Hoping to continue the good news of increased lodging tax revenues for 2009, Green sees a central reservation system as just one way to work towards keeping the news good. With so much bad economic news announced every day, local residents and lodgers hope Green is correct.

jim@pagosasun.com