• Tue. Jan 11th, 2022

    Sundance’s online move is a big blow to Park City’s accommodation industry

    ByStephanie M. Akbar

    Jan 8, 2022
    Sundance Film Festival banners are displayed on Main Street.
    David Jackson / Park Record

    The Park City area accommodation industry is expected to experience a rough patch later in January, when some of the largest and highest paying crowds normally fill rooms for more than a week.

    The cancellation of the Sundance Film Festival as an in-person event for the second year in a row over fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus will take its toll on Park City’s economy, but hotels, hostels and other types of accommodation will likely be particularly affected.

    Sundance crowds typically spend millions of dollars on lodging, a particularly lucrative time between the holidays and the traditionally busy times later in ski season. Sundance crowds in 2022 are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, but the numbers would almost certainly have given accommodation a boost.



    “Events like Sundance are essential to our economy and, for the most part, irreplaceable,” said Dan Bullert, president of the Park City Area Lodging Association.

    The accommodation industry, alongside the rest of Park City’s tourism economy, is hoping to attract more people traveling for skiing and snowboarding on dates when Sundance crowds would otherwise have booked most of the available rooms.



    “Everyone will try to fill this void,” he said.

    Accommodation represents a large part of the expenses during the festival. A Sundance-owned economy firm released a report after the 2020 festival, finding crowds spent nearly $ 63.4 million on accommodation. It was by far the most important expense category. The report found that the average person outside of Utah spent $ 1,439 on accommodation, or $ 266 each day they were at Sundance. Accommodation rates during Sundance are generally among the highest of the year.

    The accommodation industry, on the other hand, has a big influence on the economy at large, as people who visit typically also spend in other sectors like restaurants, transportation, and retail.

    Economic numbers in Park City in January 2021, when Sundance went live, were weak compared to the previous January, but they far exceeded city hall projections.

    Sundance is scheduled to take place January 20-30. Registration dates usually start several days before the opening, as people with direct connections to the festival start to arrive. They are followed by large crowds during the normally crowded early days of the event. Hotel lobbies buzz with lines of people checking in, swapping stories about their trips to Park City, and talking about their screening and party plans.

    Bullert also touched on the sensitive subject of cancellations of reservations made for Sundance dates. He said there is no standard practice for considering cancellations in the Park City accommodation industry. Cancellations are assessed on a case-by-case basis and individual properties have their own policies, he said.


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