Current caseload, less people coming to the area factored into decision
After a summer season that limited lodging occupancy to 50 percent, San Miguel County officials approved an increase in capacity to 75 percent, which will go into effect Oct. 1
Officials, who heard county public health director Grace Franklin’s six-month COVID-19 report Wednesday, took into account the maintained case levels and “anticipated decrease in drive traffic and camping in the coming months” in making the decision, according to a county news release.
Occupancy will be measured on a monthly basis. With the updated capacity, single units and self-managed properties like Airbnb and VRBO) can rent each unit 23 days per month, and 21 days in February.
“The lodgers have worked diligently to comply with public health orders, and implement best practices for our guests and community,” Lodging Oversight Committee Chair Larry Mallard said in the release. “We are grateful to the Public Health Department for working together to increase capacity and are confident that we can maintain metrics with continued safety protocols.”
Michael Martelon, Telluride Tourism Board president and CEO, explained occupancy for October is currently up compared to last year, though that doesn’t mean more people are visiting the area but instead staying longer.
“At this point in time, October paid occupancy is just north of 12 percent, compared to last year's 10 percent; an increase that correlates with the average length of stay increasing from three to four nights year-over-year,” he said. “Summer overall has the same average-length-of-stay growth. October paid occupancy currently opens with a strong weekend and continues a downward trend through Halloween, with slight upticks on weekends until the middle of the month.”
Similarly, owner stays mimic the pattern throughout the month.
“Current data shows owner stays starting the month at 19 percent occupancy and finishing at 9 percent, mirroring at least for now, the reduction in the paid segment,” he added.
Overall, paid and owner occupancy for the month of October is currently 26 percent compared to 22.3 percent last year.
A new trend that has occurred during the pandemic is the booking window, the days from a guest booking to a guest arrival, has shrunk, Martelon pointed out.
“Summer booking windows have decreased by 60 percent year-over-year from a summer average last year of 80 days to 31 days this summer. The festival booking patterns and market behavior in a pandemic have influenced this metric,” he explained. “That’s a long way of saying that, so far anyway, consumers have a newfound fondness for the outdoors, which produces an elevated number of stays booked seven to 10 days in advance, rather than 80-124 days.”
While tourism has remained healthy given the uncertainty of the coronavirus, the county caseload indicates that both locals and visitors have taken precautions seriously.
During the week, officials announced one new positive case from test results Sept. 16-18, but the 17-year-old male isn’t a resident so he is not counted toward the overall case count, leaving it at 90, as of press time Thursday afternoon. The male is symptomatic and in isolation; close contacts have been notified. There were no new positive cases announced Tuesday from test results this week. The next update will be today (Friday).
Entering flu season, it is important to get tested, especially if experiencing coronavirus symptoms, since illnesses this time of the year may have similar traits. Testing “is highly encouraged for individuals who are symptomatic, and/or who are a close contact of a confirmed positive case,” according to a Tuesday county news release.
“Testing plays an essential role in managing COVID, and we want to provide as many resources as possible from education to testing capability,” Franklin said. “There should be no barriers to getting tested if a person is symptomatic or was in close contact with a known positive.”
Testing by appointment is available at the Telluride Regional Medical Center and Uncompahgre Medical Center. Individuals must have an order from a health care provider or public health to get tested. Mesa County Public Health is offering free drive-up testing to all, including out of county residents, at the Mesa County Fairgrounds Tuesday through Saturday every week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information can be found at health.mesacounty.us/covidtesting.
For more county information, visit covid-19-sanmiguelco.hub.arcgis.com.
Special Thanks so Justin Criado, Telluride Daily Planet