As with most everything else in the last year, COVID-19 related uncertainty called into question the viability of ski resorts and of the 2020-21 ski season. With capacity restrictions everywhere from the shuttles, to the lifts, to the lodges, as well as new reservation systems and mask requirements it was unclear how public interest in skiing trips would fare.
To answer this question the U.S. Travel Association is offering a free dashboard in collaboration with Rove Marketing and Uber Media that monitors daily unique mobile devices across various points of interest at sample ski resorts and winter destinations. The data provides a representative sample of total visitation, and offers insight on visitation trends as well as origin market, distance traveled, and demographics of recent visitors. The dashboard is updated twice a month and allows users to view data for both the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 ski seasons.
What is the data telling us?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the data reveals that since November 2020, local visitors have made up a much higher percentage of ski destination visitors than they did the same period last season. Between November 2019 and mid-February 2020, locals comprised 17% of ski destination visitors. This number jumped to 28% in the 2020-21 season. Local visitors are defined as those coming to each ski destination from within 50 miles.
In terms of distance travelled to ski destination, thus far in the 2020-21 season a much higher portion of visitors travelled less than 25 miles to their ski destination, compared to the same period in the 2019-20 season. Similarly, a smaller portion of visitors have travelled over 100 miles to a ski destination compared to last year.
Comparing individual ski destinations between seasons allows users to uncover additional trends. Data for Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont for example shows that while the 2020-21 visitation follows a similar pattern as 2019-2020, visitation during non-holiday times has been at a higher level. While weather and other variables factor into season over season comparisons, this is a nice tool that can be used to visualize broad travel trends.
Why is this important?
While ski resorts are only one segment of the tourism industry, this data can be used as a leading indicator to help track the recovery of the domestic travel market from the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, see the U.S. Travel Association.
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