Aspen chamber prepares $1.7M marketing plan
Ryan Summerlin October 30, 2012
ASPEN – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will pitch a $1.7 million marketing budget to the Aspen City Council next month and propose a five-year extension of the city’s contract with the chamber to manage the marketing funds.
The budget was presented to the chamber board of directors Tuesday; it will go to the City Council on Nov. 27.
The marketing fund is supported by a 2 percent lodging tax; 1.5 percent of the proceeds go toward marketing, and 0.5 percent goes toward transit. The marketing contract has been awarded to the chamber since the fund’s inception in 2000, and with the current three-year contract expiring at the end of this year, the chamber will seek a longer term starting in 2013, according to Debbie Braun, chamber president. A five-year contract will give the chamber more time to delve into efforts to broaden its fledgling international marketing campaign, she said.
The proposed $1.7 million spending plan for 2013 is up about $200,000 from this year’s budget but flat with actual 2012 revenues, as the lodging tax has generated more money than was anticipated when the year began, explained Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing for the chamber.
The budget includes $75,000 to American Airlines for the second and final year – part of a package to lure the airline to serve the Aspen market. American will begin its second winter of local service in December.
There is also a $150,000 expenditure to the 2013 Winter X Games – part of a deal offered to ESPN to extend its contract with Aspen Skiing Co. to hold the games at Buttermilk for two more years. The chamber will contribute $150,000 in 2014, as well.
Both American and ESPN are considered partners that help contribute to the resort’s destination-marketing efforts with their own marketing, Theisen said.
Among other 2013 allocations is $170,000 targeted to attracting group business, particularly during the spring and fall offseasons. Occupancy in Aspen was up by double digits from May through August, Theisen noted, but dipped 9.3 percent in September, in part because the Friday of Labor Day weekend fell in August.
“I see fall as maybe our biggest growth opportunity,” Theisen said.
The chamber hopes to lure groups large enough to spread the business among various lodges and hotels but is limited in available conference space in town. The largest available room can accommodate perhaps 350 people at once, according to Sarah Reynolds, the chamber’s national sales manager for groups.
The advertising budget will increase from $300,000 to $330,000.
The chamber also is bumping up its budget for public relations by $15,000 and expanding its overseas efforts. This year’s budget was $165,000. This year’s international efforts targeted Brazil and Australia; the plan for 2013 is to reach out to the United Kingdom and Mexico, as well.
“On the international side, I’m looking at how we can reach out to some of these markets without a lot of money,” Theisen said.
The efforts include courting international tour-group operators and promoting coverage of Aspen in overseas travel media, just as the chamber does domestically with its public-relations funds.
After a summertime survey of 3,000 visitors indicated that 42 percent of the resort’s summer guests previously have visited Aspen during the winter, the chamber will also focus on increasing the crossover of guests between seasons, Theisen said.
“We’re seeing a decent base of people who are crossing over,” she said. “How can we kind of grow the cross-promotion between seasons?”