Big-name events have Lodging Association’s Ducoff smiling

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Steve Ducoff, executive director of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association, has a lot of worries — difficult economic times, razor-thin margins and increasing taxes.

But he says there are some bright spots. The Quizno’s Pro Challenge cycling event will bring 6,000 room nights to Colorado Springs, and the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament will provide national attention “that we just couldn’t pay for.”

The Pikes Peak Lodging Association has 36 members, including most of the full-service hotels in town, some bed-and-breakfast members and other types of lodging establishments. It serves as a trade organization and lobbies city and county government to keep their taxes low.

What are some of the challenges facing the hotel industry?

The latest report from the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association for Colorado Springs indicates a weak sector. We were down 0.6 percent compared to 2010 for January. Of course, the first quarter is always the slowest of the year.

Another problem is our daily average room rate, which continues to slide. The government cut the per diem rate for government travel, so that’s made a difference. Our average rate is $76.08, which is down 3 percent from a year ago. Statewide, the average room rate is $130.50.

Do lower room rates attract more guests and more tourists?

It’s a great deal for the traveler but tough on our industry. The rate is lower than it was a decade ago. Our challenge is to work on raising that rate. Our margins are critically slim today.

Is the economy recovering enough to see a difference in tourism here?

We have seen some revival in tourism, but our biggest problem today is the increase in fuel prices. We are concerned that both business and leisure travel may be severely affected as the price for a barrel of oil hovers at or exceeds $100.

Is there any good news?

We are excited about some of the initiatives and new events scheduled in the area. The recently completed President’s Day Hockey Tournament is a terrific event for the hospitality industry because it brings people here in winter. Winter has always been a challenge for the Springs as far as hotels are concerned because we are so far away from the ski resorts. The Quizno’s Pro Challenge will have a huge impact, bringing competitors, media and sponsors to Colorado Springs in August. The U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament in July will bring national attention — that always pays huge dividends.

One other piece of good news: the decision between the Housing and Building Association and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to build an expo center. That’s a very big deal. The 60,000 square feet of space offer additional opportunities for very large events. It’s good news for the industry.

What’s coming up for the association?

We’re co-sponsoring a special industry event with Pikes Peak Area Attractions. It’s a two-day event that lets the people at the front desk know more about what’s going on in the area, and they can pass that along to guests. It’s just another way to get people into places — restaurants, the Pioneers Museum.

We also are talking to the city council and the county about the lodging taxes. We understand and appreciate what the (Convention and Visitors’ Bureau) does and what they try to do. (The CVB is funded through the lodging tax.) However, we actively try to keep that low because the margins are just so thin right now.

Our main goal is to keep our members educated and informed about the lodging industry as a whole, and to throw in an occasional dash of social events as well.