ASPEN - Aspen voters will be asked in November to approve increasing the current lodging tax by 1 percent to support marketing and special events for the resort.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Aspen Lodging Association asked the Aspen City Council on Monday night to approve including the measure on the upcoming ballot.
"This is an opportunity for the people of Aspen to stand behind the notion of a sustainable tourism economy," Mayor Mick Ireland said. "It is an opportunity for the community to cast a yes vote for the future."
Ireland's fellow council members agreed, thus paving the way for the measure to be included on November's ballot.
"While I feel as if a weight has been lifted in that we have the support of the entire council in moving forward on this, the work has just begun," said ACRA President Debbie Braun. "Now we need to get the word out and the correct information out about what this tax increase really means to people."
The city currently collects a 1 percent tax on all lodging rooms, which is split between the city's free bus system and resort marketing. The additional 1 percent, if approved, will be used solely for marketing and special events through ACRA's destination marketing program.
"This may be a citywide vote, but it is not a citywide tax," said Braun, stressing that the 1 percent tax increase applies to overnight accommodations only; it will not affect Aspen residents' property taxes or the sale tax. "People hear the word tax, and they worry. I do, too. But what Aspen voters need to realize is that they are not facing a tax increase."
Braun and others in the local tourism and lodging industry believe increased marketing dollars is key to keeping Aspen competitive, especially in the current economic climate.
Last year, ACRA took the lead in an effort to boost the marketing fund through the formation of a local marketing district that was to encompass the resort's lodging properties. A new 1 percent tax was to be charged on lodging accommodations within the district; only voters residing inside the district could vote on the tax measure.
Snafus related to who was and wasn't supposed to be voting led the county clerk to pull the question from the ballot altogether. This time, ACRA is simply seeking to add to the existing lodging tax with a citywide vote. No special district is proposed the time around.
"We can get it done and get it done right in November," said Ireland, calling the previous election debacle a "misfire" and offering to chair the committee to get this new ballot measure passed. "ACRA has done a great job with the funds we allocated them, as they have done in the past and in general. Of course we don't expect ACRA to do everything; the business community and the lodging community have a major share in this."
The existing tax is expected to generate $450,000 for marketing in 2010; the additional tax would bring that total to nearly $1.5 million, according to Braun.