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Mountain News: Businesses optimistic about summer



PARK CITY, Utah - Optimism about increased tourism this summer prevails in Park City. Hoteliers tell the Park Record that they expect 20 to 25 per cent gains this summer in occupancy compared to last summer. But as has been the case during ski season, flat or lower rates will be necessary to achieve this.

Ralf Garrison, of the Mountain Travel Research Program, predicts an even more robust summer, with gains of 40 per cent in July and August as compared to 2009. Increased occupancy, he says, may also allow rates to rise again.

Garrison reported that occupancy in March this year at the ski resorts he monitors in the West was up 9.6 per cent. But, of course, room rates had dropped.

Unemployment rate up

JACKSON, Wyo. - The unemployment trough of the current recession was two to three times as deep in Jackson Hole as the downturn following the bust and the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Unemployment peaked at 11.7 per cent last November in Teton County, which is roughly the same as Jackson Hole. Since then, that number has receded - but part of it is a matter of unemployment benefits running out, explains the Jackson Hole News & Guide . Still, judging from the number of classified ads for workers in the newspaper, the economy seems to be tepidly recovering.

At the peak, about 1,200 people from the accommodations and food services sector were getting unemployment benefits, and 580 from the construction trades.


Real estate down 20 to 40 per cent

ASPEN, Colo. - A new report by the Aspen Appraisal Group documents a 20 to 40 per cent tumble in real estate values in Aspen since they peaked in 2007, and also shows a similar decrease in rents for commercial spaces.

The top-end market has been in rough shape, with just three sales of houses priced higher than $20 million in 2008 and 2009. Doing somewhat better are well-located homes in the $9 million to $15 million category.

Commercial space has an 8 per cent vacancy rate, high enough that national retailers have been showing an interest, wrote Randy Gold, a principal in the firm. He said it's a good time to acquire Aspen-area real estate - provided the buyer can afford to hold onto the property for at least five years. Aspen will recover more rapidly than Snowmass Village, however.


A more perfect ski town

TELLURIDE, Colo.  - When the ski lifts in Telluride closed, Seth Cagin and family of The Watch newspaper traveled to the Alps to ski and compare notes. He toured the high-end resorts of Zermatt, Verbier and Chamonix - and found much to like with each. And, as he has in the past, he returned with the belief that Telluride needs to bolster its draw as a destination for tourists, similar to those alpine resorts, to become what he calls a "more perfect ski town."

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