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ARCHIVED  October 1, 1997

Lodging industry maintains strength

On a hot sunny day in August, tourists visiting Estes Park could find themselves with "no room at the inn."Even though a variety of new inns, condos, and bed-and-breakfast establishments have been completed, Estes is still full to capacity during the peak summer season.
"We have seen growth in the lodging industry," said Cory Blackman, president of the board of the Estes Park Chamber Resort Association and general manager of the Best Western Lake Estes. "We have been able to position ourselves very well. We are seeing a 4 percent growth in sales-tax revenues, and we want to see that grow to double digits."
Blackman noted that Estes Park boasts 110 to 115 different lodging establishments, which includes the YMCA of the Rockies.
"The Y can sleep 4,000 people." Blackman said, adding that Estes Park can sleep 9,000 to 10,000 "heads in beds," including the YMCA.
"There has been a lot of expansions of existing establishments and some new places built," he said. "We˜ve added 200 rooms in the last four years. A new bed and breakfast will open this fall on Colorado Highway 7. It is a brand-new building. We are seeing people opening nine to 20 unit places — smaller, more-intimate facilities."
Room rates vary, Blackman said. During the peak season from mid-June to the end of September, rates run from $50 to $250 depending on the size of the accommodation and whether it has a Jacuzzi or kitchen. In the off season, rates drop to around $35 to $175 per night, he said.
Recently, the Estes Park Area Chamber of Commerce merged with the Estes Park Resort Association to form the Estes Park Chamber Resort Association.
"We merged about four months ago," Blackman said. "The chamber mans the visitor˜s center, and we handle all fulfillment calls. We have a thing called the Betterment Fund, where we collect a fee from the resort association. So the resort association had funds to advertise but no way to administer the funds. The chamber had management to administer funds, so we merged the two, and now the Betterment Fund is the Estes Park Improvement Fund. The biggest driving force behind this (merger) was the demise of the Colorado Tourism Board three years ago."
Blackman said some small towns, such as Durango, were hurt when the tourism board was dismantled. Estes Park has the advantage of being the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, so tourism will continue to thrive in the community of slightly fewer than 10,000 residents.
"Rocky Mountain Park is one of the jewels of the nation," Blackman said. "Even when the economy is tight, people still come here, and now, in the last few years, we are getting more international visitors, especially people from Europe and Asia."
David Thomas, the new executive director of the Chamber Resort Association, said Estes Park is trying to tap into the same tourist market as every other tourist town in Colorado.
"Anybody that has a hotel has the same thought to attract the Front Range visitor, so that˜s what everyone is going for," he said. "We have a different product than many other areas, such as Keystone, which is a long trek up there. There is a perception that we (our lodgings) are always full, and that˜s not the case. But if you build (lodgings) for a peak period, than you have a lot of vacancy during the year. The average stay in Estes is about four days."
Estes is trying to attract more overnight visitors, Thomas said, adding that in a recent survey, visitors said that their most favorable experience was shopping.
"So shopping is entertainment," Thomas said. "We have now planned more nighttime activities, and we are converting day trippers to overnight people. We have ample parking, and the camp grounds are extremely popular. We have had a big increase in campers."
The business community in Estes Park is very enlightened, Thomas said.
"We are creating a major Christmas event called Celebrate Estes on Dec. 12, 13, 14. There are lots of activities for families. We can attract a lot of Front Range people that are dying for a village Christmas."
Even with the new accommodations, the town is filling up during the peak season and holidays.
"We have seen a lot of new properties (accommodations) come on line, and we need some time to catch up," said Gary Klaphake, Estes town administrator. "We are just as full, but we replaced the people from out of state with people from Colorado. I think we have some over capacity now, but we can grow into that. The economy is flatter than it used to be."
In the 5 square miles considered the boundary of Estes, the new accommodations being built are considered upscale.
"We will always have people coming in to Estes who want rooms, and sometimes we are just full," said Peter Marsh, advertising manager for Estes Park.
To handle the problem of finding a place to stay in Estes Park, the visitors center has a huge map that hangs on the wall, and each lodging facility is indicated on the map with an amber light.
"Only chamber resort members who pay the extra fee to advertise with us have a light on the board," said Sue Prindiville at the Estes Park Visitor˜s Center. "We have hotels, motels, condos, cabins, camp grounds, bed and breakfasts and lodges. There are at least 80 members on the board. We send thousands and thousands of referrals each year."
There are direct-dial lines at the visitor˜s center for tourists to call any accommodation they find lit up on the board. When a light goes out, that lodging facility or campground is full. The visitor˜s center handles referrals for accommodations all year long, but in the summer, things heat up. By early July, the center may have as many as 100 people in the lobby looking for a room.

On a hot sunny day in August, tourists visiting Estes Park could find themselves with "no room at the inn."Even though a variety of new inns, condos, and bed-and-breakfast establishments have been completed, Estes is still full to capacity during the peak summer season.
"We have seen growth in the lodging industry," said Cory Blackman, president of the board of the Estes Park Chamber Resort Association and general manager of the Best Western Lake Estes. "We have been able to position ourselves very well. We are seeing a 4 percent growth in sales-tax revenues, and we want to see that…

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