The second wave of RRC’s Mountain Travel Sentiment Survey results are coming in and early findings provide insight as we look ahead. Sifting through the survey results, we are identifying a number of challenges for the coming winter, but we also see opportunities. For example, while about half the respondents indicate they won’t shift their booking patterns this winter, about 10% say they will take fewer ski trips that involve flights, but they will stay longer. The need for flexibility in length of stay to meet demand should be anticipated by lodging operators. Further, there is relatively more interest expressed by mountain travelers in staying in a condo/townhouse/house or vacation rental (35%), than renting a hotel/motel room or B&B (22%). We believe some of the differences in these results are explained by overall perceptions of safety, but particularly sentiment toward dining in a resort setting. The data speak to this topic.
The research is showing, consistent with survey results that we have tracked since last spring (April/May), while a large segment of travelers are comfortable dining outdoors (77%), only about a third say they are comfortable dining indoors. Clearly, this represents a challenge to mountain resorts and communities in general; what kinds of responses are we seeing toward dealing with this gap in perceived dining safety, and are there opportunities for new and creative solutions? A few thoughts:
• Attention to extending outdoor dining into winter. If you operate restaurants, have you looked at every option available, and are you pursuing this challenge as a cooperative effort with support from community leaders and elected officials?
• Innovative heating systems, new forms of shelter including tents and overhangs. other creative ideas? (Telluride is repurposing old gondola cars for indoor dining https://theknow.denverpost.com/2020/10/21/telluride-gondola-cars-dining-cabins/247253/). Have you explored ideas for turning indoor recreation facilities and churches into themed dining venues that permit distancing for takeout diners. What other innovations will we see this winter?
• Significant interest in takeout and grab and go dining was identified in our survey, restaurants should be reevaluating their menu offerings to optimize all aspects of the dining experience for guests. Also, carefully examining methods of pickup and delivery are appropriate. How well are you meeting demands of visitors this winter - are food pick-up processes safe, warm, efficient, with minimal impacts on indoor diners? There is still time to make improvements as we move toward winter.
• Finally, if you are a hotel operator, what are you doing to address and anticipate shifting consumer demands. Are there gathering spaces where guests can eat outside their rooms but in socially distanced configurations? Are there appropriate utensils and trash disposal resources available? And are your hotel restaurants prepared to meet significantly expanded demand for in- room dining, and grab and go food for on-mountain consumption? Communicating your offerings will also be critical, positioning hotels/lodges as a viable alternative to condo and RBO units will be a timely and competitively important message.
These are a few of the findings from the research that clearly support planning for this winter in a new and competitive environment.