Fewer visitors overall checking into GJ hotels
While tourism and business travel is up elsewhere in the state, as are the lodging taxes that go with them, Grand Junction seems to be experiencing a slight lull, local officials said.
In 2010 and 2011, that revenue nearly matched pre-recession levels, but since then the number of visitors who stay in local hotels has dropped off.
And Debbie Kovalik, executive director of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, can only speculate as to why.
“What the local hotels are suggesting is, their corporate travel is down,” she said. “Some portions of that are energy (industry) related. In the summer, we look to make up for some of that by seeing increased travel from the leisure end.”
According to month-by-month data compiled in the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report put together by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, most other cities in Colorado have seen an uptick in hotel stays.
Not so, Grand Junction.
Here, year-over-year monthly figures in the report show a slight to heavy decrease in the number of hotel visitors so far this year.
The bureau’s own figures show that there was a 14.5 percent drop in the number of people who came into the city’s visitors’ center in April over same month last year.
That’s the good news.
The three months prior to that, however, showed a whopping 31.9 percent decline in March, a 26.9 percent dip in February and a 29.8 percent drop in January.
As a result, revenue from the city’s 3 percent lodging tax, which is used to help promote tourism and convention business in town, is down 6.2 percent so far this year.
Kovalik hopes that trend won’t continue the rest of the year, but fears it might.
“From what I hear, May seems very, very strong,” she said. “The weather has been pretty good, traffic has been great, some of the hotels are early reporting that they are up at least a percentage or two over May last year.”
That’s true, at least for a couple of downtown hotels.
Mary Hawkins, general manager of the Hampton Inn Grand Junction, said things actually are looking up, though she admits she has an advantage other hotels in town don’t.
“We are a downtown location, so my hotel sells out before any of the hotels on Horizon Drive, always,” she said. “I have a very good location, and I don’t notice that significant of a drop in my occupancies this year over last. After people have come to town once or twice, then they know about the 20 restaurants and the shopping down here, the active nightlife ... and the convention center.”
Still, Hawkins has noticed a dip in the number of business travelers in the past few years, and, like Kovalik, blames it on the depressed energy industry on the Western Slope.
Greeley, Loveland busy
As if to prove their point, the lodging report shows a 78.2 percent and 65.7 percent occupancy rate in Greeley and Loveland, respectively, in April. Both cities are in the midst of a boom in the oil industry that’s hit Weld County in recent years.
Those towns have even outpaced the state’s resort communities, which have a combined occupancy rate of 57.8 percent.
By comparison, Grand Junction’s occupancy rate is 46 percent, down from 47.2 percent in April 2012.
For the remainder of the year, Kovalik hopes to see things start to pick up, particularly when the summer activities kick in, such as the Palisade Peach Festival and area mountain biking events.
At the same time, she’s calling on local residents to help.
“The leisure side is going to be driven by events and what we in the industry call VFRs, visiting friends and relatives,” she said. “Apparently, (local residents) haven’t been asking people to come visit them as much as they used to. We may have a whole campaign to say, ‘Bring Aunt Martha and Uncle Fred to visit this summer and help the local economy.’”
National park draw
Kovalik said having more reasons to visit the region, including the area’s farms and fruits, biking, and, of course, the Colorado National Monument, help get them here.
“The other thing that’s out there in the wind that would make a nice difference in leisure travel is if the Colorado National Monument designation were to go to national park status,” she added. “That would quickly incentivize some folks that are generally traveling through here, but maybe not stopping. They would go, ‘Wait a minute. A national park. I’d better stay a little longer and check it out.’”
Kovalik doesn’t expect that to generate a swarm of new visitors, but it could easily be a 10 percent increase, at least in the first year, she predicted.