TELLURIDE – As unimpressive snow conditions continue to plague ski resorts across the country, impressive holiday sales numbers from the Telluride Regional Airport are proving visitors will go where the snow is. And so far this season, Telluride’s better-than-most ski conditions are having a positive impact on its visitor numbers.
In almost all categories, general aviation holiday sales at TEX have seen increases in comparison to holiday sales the previous year. This year, in the time period between Dec. 22 and Jan. 3, total gross general aviation sales at the airport reached $619,015 – a 70 percent increase from the 2010/2011 total of $363,774.
Deplanements in that time period reached 1,802, which is up from 1,041 from the previous year marking a 73 percent increase. Enplanements at TEX were up as well jumping from 788 to 1,520 this year, marking an increase of approximately 93 percent.
“It is a bit unexpected when you get that big of a jump,” Airport Manager Rich Nuttall said. “It’s up quite a bit from the last year. I think a lot of folks decided to take a resort vacation and Telluride had a bit more snow than most of the other resorts in the West. The weather was so great here, the folks that could make the decision to come here did.”
How much the increase in general aviation activity at TEX will translate to an increase in lodging numbers remains to be seen. Telluride Tourism Board President and CEO Michael Martelon said his organization compiles lodging occupancy numbers monthly and December numbers will be available soon. Without those in hand, though, Martelon said bookings for December as of the end of November were encouraging.
“Year over year, traditionally we run approximately 39 percent occupancy in the month of December,” Martelon said. “On November 30, we had 37 percent occupancy in the books. We needed to pick up two percent to reach our average. Given that deplanements increased by 70 percent, you would think it would be easy to make up that two percent.” Martelon added that since 85 percent of December’s occupancy historically occurs in the last two weeks of the month, there may be room for improvement by enticing visitors to come in the first two weeks of the month.
While he was cautious in assessing the increased activity at TEX because it came in the first three weeks of the ski season, Telluride-Montrose Regional Air Organization Executive Director Scott Stewart said he is certainly encouraged by the numbers, despite the fact that there are fewer commercial seats coming into TEX.
“I think people went to alternative airports to find their way here,” Stewart said. “I don’t know if that trend is going to carry through the rest of the season or not. We had relatively good snow and those who can be more flexible in their travel plans chose to fly to Telluride. Don’t get me wrong, these numbers are encouraging but I don’t know how it will translate for the rest of the season. I am pleased about the holiday season but I am cautious going forward.”
Both Martelon and Stewart concurred with Nuttall’s final sentiment: “Now we just need more snow.”