Sunday, December 21, 2008

The weather outside is frightful.

I posted the following on December 1, this year.

The real sales for my store usually come in the second half of the month. Which, as I've said in Christmas pasts, is kind of scary because it really comes down to about 10 days and what happens if there's a blizzard or a terrorist attack or something?

Paul-doh made fun of me worrying about my business instead of a terrorist attack, but hey....it's out of my hands.

So, anyway. The weather has hit. Hard. It hit just as Christmas was ready to take off, 10 days before Christmas. It ramped up just as the last weekend arrived. And it appears to be ramping up again for the last five days.

It was bound to happen one of these days, and really quite amazing that it hasn't really happened before.

Of course, Murphy's Law being the bastard it is, it happened on a very challenged Christmas season, probably turning a 'bad' sales level to a 'horrible' sales level.

I may plan for 'horrible' sales levels, but that doesn't mean I want them to happen.

I still have a chance of breaking even for the season, but more likely I'll come up short. (The big problem is the big inventory of books I ordered this fall with the intention of paying with Christmas profits.) What it means is that I'll carry a small balance into January on my credit cards, maybe 1/10th as much as last year, and when I saw what was happening I moderated my orders to such an extent that I may be able to pay them off in January. Or February.

As long as the cash flow is positive, I'm good.

I think I've also mentioned that the locals have quit spending money, but the tourists were still spending even through the summer and I thought there was a decent chance they would deliver this Christmas.

That's before the weather hit. Now I'm afraid that people are going to use this as a good excuse to stay home and wrap themselves in a warm football game.

Basic confirmation is in the Bulletin article below.

Holiday tourism forecast: Chilly
Economic troubles contribute to ‘startling’ drop in lodging
By Jeff McDonald / The Bulletin
Published: December 21. 2008 4:00AM PST

Last week’s snowfall could entice some procrastinating holiday planners to trek to Central Oregon for wintertime fun, but early lodging industry projections predict a double-digit drop in bookings for the critical two-week holiday period that begins this week.

That’s the word from the Central Oregon Visitors Association, which surveyed its lodging partners last week in advance of the holidays.

“Regrettably, the news isn’t real good,” said Alana Audette, COVA’s president and CEO, after hearing results of the survey and speaking with lodging property owners. “Across the board, properties are down significantly. … It is pretty startling.”

Most businesses are down in the 10 to 20 percent range compared with the same period last year, Audette said.

The situation reminds her of the holidays after Sept. 11, 2001, when many Americans hunkered down with families, simplified their lives and avoided travel.

The slowdown in overnight lodging could affect other parts of the region’s economy, including restaurants, ski rental shops and other businesses, Audette said.

“It is brutal for the tourism industry and it is indicative of what’s going to happen around the nation,” Audette said.

The downward projections started with the Thanksgiving holiday bookings, which also fell double-digits, Audette said.

Seventh Mountain Resort could be down as much as 30 percent this month compared with December 2007, said Jim Kinney, general manager.

“It is pretty significant,” Kinney said. “Two things are going on. The snow is coming late, which gave travelers a reason to wait and see and, of course, the economy is dragging things down. The economy is affecting things more at this point.”

Holiday travel over the next two weeks is expected to decline 2.1 percent among Americans this year, according to AAA. Auto travel is expected to decline 1.2 percent while air travel will decline 8.5 percent this year, AAA said.

Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo ski areas are hoping lower gas prices will help bolster business from markets within driving distance.

Ski areas located within driving distance of their target markets are expected to fare better than ski areas whose target markets must travel by air, said Alex Kaufman, director of marketing for Mt. Bachelor.

“People are more willing to hop in a car than hop on a plane in this environment,” he said.

Bachelor, which sold 17 to 20 percent more season passes this year than it did in advance of the 2007-08 season, typically does a month’s worth of business during this two-week period, Kaufman said.

“With an increased number of season pass holders, they tend to relate to increased visitation because those people bring people with them,” Kaufman said.

For Hoodoo, which was scheduled to open Saturday, the snowfall came at just the right time. While Mt. Bachelor’s attendance dropped 7 percent last season, Hoodoo grew by 10 percent in 2007-08, General Manager Matthew McFarland said.

Hoodoo set an all-time, single-day record with 4,019 ski visitors on Dec. 31, 2007, he said. The Christmas-to-New Year’s week comprises about 25 percent of Hoodoo’s annual business, McFarland said.

“We are hoping for as good as last year, with maybe a little growth,” he said. “I think the economy is going to slow people a little bit, but with gas prices dropping, maybe more people will take the less expensive vacation — rather than go to California or Colorado — and come ski with us.”

The recent storms brought a glimmer of hope for the local restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by a downturn dating to November 2007, said Mike Millette, general manager of Merenda Restaurant and Wine Bar in downtown Bend. That’s when Merenda started seeing steep year-over-year declines, which have resulted in a 30 percent drop in sales year to date, Millette said.

This year, Merenda is booked solid on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, but down the rest of the holiday season, Millette said. “We will probably be down, but hopefully snow and low gas prices will bring (visitors) here,” he said. “People are spending their money on those important days, but we are down the day after Christmas.”

At Skjersaa’s Sports Shop on Century Drive in Bend, the snow has meant more smiles and excitement among existing customers but has not resulted in a spike in sales, said Greg Rubin, a sales clerk. “There have been a few Christmas shoppers and people looking for gear, but nowhere near last season,” he said. “A lot of people are sticking to the essentials rather than buying new equipment. Everyone is looking for secondhand or cheaper.”

Business is projected to dip only 2 percent at Discover Sunriver Vacation Rentals, said Larry Browning, owner of the property management company in Sunriver. “The snow helped,” said Browning, who added that property rentals were off about 10 to 15 percent over Thanksgiving. “I am tickled to death with (only a slight drop for the holidays).”

The timing of this year’s Christmas and New Year’s holidays, which are positioned close to weekends, helped boost reservations, Browning said.

“We are not getting a sense that (skiers and other visitors) are not going to come because of the variety of lodging options in Central Oregon and type of snow at the mountain,” Browning said. “I still think people are going to take that quality vacation.”

Other hotels, the Marriott Towne Place Suites and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, will not be altogether helped by the recent snowfall, said Amy Reynolds, general manager of both hotels.

Every room at the Towne Place Suites, a leisure-oriented hotel closer to Mt. Bachelor, is sold out over Christmas weekend.

But at the Fairfield Inn, more of a business-oriented hotel north of downtown Bend, the snow hurt business, Reynolds said.

The two hotels combined had 25 cancellations in three days related to the snowfall last week, most of which were at the Fairfield Inn, she said. “Our hotels survive mostly on business travel. When the passes are covered with snow and ice, those business travelers don’t come. This snowfall, at least for our hotels, is not necessarily going to help us.”

The snow could be a late holiday boost for most of Bend’s hotels and motels, which are typically booked at the last minute, said Doug La Placa, president and CEO of Visit Bend.

“The timing of the snow is a very positive factor for leisure travel,” La Placa said. “During the next two to three weeks, Bend would not be experiencing that much corporate travel anyhow.”

Even with a slight bump expected from this month’s snowfall, Bend’s tourism industry is expected to be down anywhere from 8 to 14 percent throughout the rest of winter, La Placa said.

“The feedback I am hearing is that properties are anticipating a very soft holiday season.”

Jeff McDonald can be reached at 541-383-0323 or at jmcdonald@bendbulletin.com.

4 comments:

Duncan McGeary said...

Hey, you know what? It ain't that bad.

Come shop.

BilboBend said...

Yes, its simply winter.

It's amazing for weeks people 'prayed for snow', and now its here, and its the end of the world.

Yes, blame the snow, on the fact that tourists aren't here, two weeks ago blame the lack of snow on why tourists aren't here.

The sad fact is the $1M ++ COVA taxpayer city of Bend PR&MARKETING budget isn't bringing them here anymore.

There is nothing in BEND, well there is golfing. I know at Widgi, Broken-Top, ... MT Bachelor Village, something like 90% of the units are empty, they're all summer homes for REAL SUNBIRDS who right now are nesting down in Arizona.

They'll be back in the Spring to golf.

HBM said today that BEND is too cold to be a year-round retirement town. Hell yes.

Where are the tourists? Helocs are gone, Credit Cards are going to be gone. Easy disposable money is GONE, its over, they're NOT coming to Bend.

What will be the excuse Post New Year?? It will be PRAY FOR SPRING.

Hurry up and wait has been the game of Bend for over two years now.

Trouble is the wait will be until 2014 at best. Do people have enough CASH to wait that long???

tim said...

"It is pretty startling."

Duncan McGeary said...

"Yes, blame the snow, on the fact that tourists aren't here, two weeks ago blame the lack of snow on why tourists aren't here."

Heh. Good one.