The summer tourism season in Anacortes is fading with the approach of Labor Day, and with it goes big business for the dozen or so major motels and hotels in town.
“July and August is where we make our profit,” said Bela Berghuys of Islands Inn. “Corporate business keeps us alive in the winter.”
Lodging in town is an overwhelmingly seasonal business, but it requires a large amount of year-round overhead. Building maintenance, utilities and upkeep costs remain relatively constant whether it’s the peak of tourist season, or the dead of winter in a sagging economy.
“If business drops 20 percent, your expenses don’t go down,” Berghuys said.
Most hoteliers are reluctant to talk about their budgets in concrete terms of occupancy rates and gross sales, but Berghuys said business has slowed in the last five years. This year seems about the same as 2011, she said.
Berghuys has managed Islands Inn in Anacortes for about 30 years, taking over full ownership in the late 1990s from her mother, who owned the hotel before her. Berghuys is also on the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce board and is the head of the hotel accommodations committee.
She said the lodging business has changed somewhat over the years.
“Thirty years ago Anacortes was a through-town,” she said. “Almost no one stayed here more than one night. I guess that’s one way Anacortes has grown up.”
A City of Anacortes Retail Market Study conducted by Berk & Associates in 2008 showed 60 to 80 percent increases in sales in spring months over the winter in Anacortes from 2004 to 2007, and drops between 40 and 50 percent from summer to fall. The findings showed that seasonal variations in Anacortes matched those throughout Skagit County. In general, hotels in our county are much more prone to seasonal variations than those in, say, King County, the study revealed.
Russ Olivier, director of operations for The Majestic Inn & Spa, said that from a business standpoint, demand for hotel rooms has softened in Anacortes and across the nation, and rooms aren’t booked as far in advance as they once were. But, he said guests still come to town.
“The leisure business has held its own reasonably well,” he said. “People need to get away for vacation, just maybe not to Maui.”
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