DENVER-Hotel occupancies statewide are up a hair, following a similar trend seen for metro-area hotels, shows the latest Rocky Mountain Lodging Report. For the entire state, hotel occupancy levels in July stood up 71%, compared with 70.8% in July 2002. As with metro-area hotels, as earlier reported by, this was only the second month this year that the occupancy levels surpassed the same month in 2002. However, statewide, the average room rate in July fell slightly to $96.44 from $97.45.

In the first seven months of the year, the overall average occupancy percentage statewide is 57.4%, compared with 59.7%. Robert S. Benton, the author of the report, tells that the occupancy levels in July are nothing to crow about. “Last year was a pretty horrible year,” so beating it was no great accomplishment, he tells

July, for seasonal reasons, tends to have the highest occupancy rates, he notes. In July 2000, hotel occupancy rates stood at 74%, while they were at 79.9% in July 1999. They set a record performance in July 1998 with an 81.5% occupancy rate, Benton says.

However, there are some bright spots throughout the state.

Hotels that draw tourists who are driving are doing well, he tells, while destination resorts such as Vail and Aspen are hurting. For example, Durango hotels boast a 92.4% occupancy rate, Glenwood Springs an 87.1% occupancy rate, Salida an 85.7% occupancy rate, Montrose an 83.2% vacancy rate, and Estes Park an 81% occupancy rate.

Vail’s occupancy rate by contrast, stood only at 43.8% and Aspen’s hotel occupancy rate is only 74.1%.

The big problem, Benson tells, is that Vail and Aspen aren’t attracting the business travelers that in years past would book group business to the resorts for such things as medical conventions. That business slowed almost to nothing after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and hasn’t returned as companies and groups pinch pennies in the economic downturn, he notes.

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