The Snowmass Village Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board voted Thursday to cut its spending on winter marketing next year by $50,000.
The board approved the marketing and special events fund and group sales fund budgets. The Snowmass Tourism department had lobbied to decrease winter marketing by as much as $100,000.
That was for two reasons, according to staff liaison Kiesha Techau: one, that the town’s Finance Department requested that the 2015 budget assume a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue, as opposed to 4 percent in 2014; and two, that the department was looking for $60,000 to allocate for replacing the Fanny Hill stage next year.
The staff’s budget also would have left $143,814 unappropriated in 2015, something Fred Brodsky, group sales director and interim Snowmass Tourism director, was advocating.
“From a long-term basis, we need to invest in summer growth,” Brodsky said.
Growing summer tourism is not only about marketing but also about improving the “product,” Brodsky said. That includes improvements such as the event lawn installed at the base of Fanny Hill and mountain-biking trails that Brodsky said he would still like to see completed in 2015.
“If we’re not leaving something there to use ... I think that’s a huge mistake,” he said.
Board Chairman John Borthwick also favored the $100,000 decrease, saying it would challenge the marketing team to work more efficiently.
“We have no data from our standpoint as to what that’s being spent on,” Borthwick said. “I will admit that it’s a challenge to the marketing group that you can have the same effectiveness with less money. ... I would put the challenge out there.”
Earlier in the meeting, the board learned that Snowmass Village ranked fifth in its competitive set for winter occupancy last season. Board member Robert Sinko questioned why that was in a seemingly very successful season. Snowmass ranked third in the winter of 2012-13.
Board member Christian Knapp raised the question of who Snowmass’ top competitors were, and the group agreed it wanted to learn more so it could target those audiences.
Board member Steve Santomo, general manager of a vacation-rental company, said that increasing Snowmass’ ranking on that list, even by one or two places, would make a bigger difference to the lodging industry in the winter than in the summer. Sinko, general manager of The Crestwood condominium hotel, agreed, saying that it’s because the hotels can up their rates based on demand.
For restaurants, though, increased winter business is not enough to outweigh the losses they experience the rest of the year, said board member Scott Calliham, owner of two Base Village eateries.
“In the summertime, we are just bleeding,” Calliham said.
Borthwick suggested that since the money would be spent on the 2015-16 winter season, the department could come back to the board and request more funds sometime next year, when maybe sales tax revenue would turn out to be higher than expected.
However, some board members were still uncomfortable with it.
“It makes me nervous cutting money out of our most profitable product,” board member Timothy MacMahon said.
“My suggestion is to always give yourself the wherewithal to make business decisions,” Brodsky said. “If it’s substantiated that we need to put that $100,000 back into winter marketing, we can do it. We need to think in terms of small business here and be able to see some opportunity that might come down the line.”
Borthwick made a motion to approve the budget as presented. However, no one seconded it.
“I’d like to see about $50,000 put back in winter marketing,” Knapp said.
The board voted unanimously to approve the budget for the marketing and special events fund, with an extra $50,000 allocated for winter marketing instead of left unappropriated.
The marketing and special events fund is supported by a 2.5 percent sales tax in Snowmass Village. The group sales fund is based on a 2.4 percent lodging tax.
One major change in group-sales expenditures that Snowmass Tourism proposed to the board was cutting the $45,000 contribution made to the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience. The department used the exchange to host media familiarization trips, and on Thursday, Brodsky said he didn’t see a strong return on that investment.
The department also contributes $150,000 to the event from the marketing fund. The board voted to leave off the expenditure and revisit it if the nonprofit requested the funds again next year.
The budgets also have to be approved by the Snowmass Village Town Council, which annually reviews the budgets of every municipal department in October.