Element hotel helps Basalt get off to strong start in 2016
The Aspen Times
Basalt’s retail sales nudged up 2.56 percent during the first quarter of 2016 and raised $1.12 million in sales tax revenue for the town coffers.
While the lodging sector remains a small part of Basalt’s overall sales picture, it showed phenomenal growth to start the year, reflecting the opening of the Element by Westin hotel. Sales tax revenue from lodging nearly tripled during the first quarter compared with the same period in 2015, according to the town government’s latest sales tax report.
Revenue from the 3 percent sales tax on lodging soared from $11,461 in first quarter 2015 to $32,438 this year. The 113-room Element hotel opened in mid-December, essentially doubling Basalt’s inventory of tourist accommodations, noted Town Manager Mike Scanlon. Lodging properties in Basalt also pay a 4 percent lodging tax.
Charlie Peck, co-founder and co-president of Silverwest Hotel Partners, an owner of the Willits hotel, said the property successfully courted skiers this winter despite being new.
“That was the bulk of our first quarter business,” Peck said. “When Aspen-Snowmass sell out completely, we’re the next up.”
The hotel was sold out during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk. Some ski teams participating in Aspen events also stayed at the midvalley property.
Prepared for offseason
Peck and his partner, Ed Mace, both have lodging backgrounds in Vail, Aspen and Snowmass Village, so they were prepared for offseason.
“We have all the wounds and scars not only of offseasons but dry winters and global recessions,” Peck said.
He noted the situation in the midvalley is slightly different, so they have been able to pick up a little more business than many resort accommodations. For example, workers assigned short-term to special projects in Aspen have been drawn to Element as have some short-term construction crews. Element rooms have kitchenettes for an extended stay. Element also has proved popular with the pilots flying corporate and private jets, Peck said.
The hotel is trying to build off its easy success by offering winter guests special packages for the summer. However, the trend is for travelers to book closer to their vacations, so it’s tough to forecast.
“It’s too early to know how summer will fill in,” Peck said.
In addition, Basalt doesn’t have as much lodging history and data to drawn on. The Basalt Mountain Inn and Aspenalt Lodge are established downtown and “have stood the test of time,” Peck said. “They’re established, and we’re the new kid at Willits.”
Nevertheless, they are encouraged by what they have seen so far.
Basalt thrives in summer
Summers are Basalt’s strong suit because of fishing, boating at Ruedi Reservoir and special events, so there are expectations for sales tax revenue growth in the lodging sector, Scanlon said.
Basalt’s sales tax revenues were up 26 percent in the first quarter from the leanest year of the recession in 2011.
The biggest generator in Basalt’s economy, grocery stores, posted a 3.8 percent gain in the first quarter over last year, the town’s report showed. The town collected $499,488 in sales tax revenues through retail food January through March.
Restaurants with bars posted a strong first quarter with growth of 10.7 percent over the same period last year. General retail, which reflects sales by mom-and-pop stores, was up 7.6 percent, while sporting retail climbed 4.7 percent.
The only two major categories that dropped during the first quarter were automotive services, off nearly 19 percent, and building materials, down 27.5 percent.
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