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Trends Q: Are advanced-bookers of ski vacations paying more or less than the last-minute crowd?

photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

Companies like Priceline and Hotel Tonight are built on a simple principle: heavy discounting can fill last-minute vacancies. Even if the check-in is only hours away, they’ve proved this can work. But what about skiing? Is there a similar trend at mountain resorts where advanced purchasers are paying more that those booking at the last second? Take a look.

The Goods
To find our answer we took 5 years of winter lodging data from 10 different mountain resorts spread across the United States. The analysis was rather straightforward: we grouped transactions by booking window (lead time) and found the average ADR of each group.

Instead of looking at raw ADR to find our answer, we used average ADR as a baseline and then compared all other reservations to that. So, if the average ADR was $200 and someone who booked 100 days out paid $220, the difference would be +10% for a booking window of 100. Here’s how it shook out:

adrvsleadaxes

As we often say, “the trend is clear”, and it really is. The further guests booked in advance, the more they paid. Skiers who booked five months in advance paid around 10% more than the average while those who booked at the last minute booked at an ADR that was well below the average.

So, the simple answer to our question is, yes, guests who book further in advance pay more than those who wait until the last few days before a trip. Now, keep in mind that this doesn’t represent anything in terms of volume, which is likely a factor as well, especially when you consider the sporadic gaps in vacancies left by early-bookers who tend to stay longer.

What This Means
The most intriguing aspect of this chart is the opposite trend compared to the lift ticket model championed by Liftopia. On the one hand, skiers are rewarded with discounts for advanced purchase of a unlimited inventory.

On the other, lodging guests pay more when booking in advance because of the limited inventory that is available. For lift tickets, the customer is locking in a price. For lodging, the customer is locking in the room/days combination they need. Both sides have pricing power.

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