Aspen chamber pushes new lodging tax
Ryan Summerlin March 30, 2010
ASPEN – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will ask the City Council to put a new 1 percent lodging tax, devoted to resort marketing, before Aspen voters in November.
The ACRA board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with the tax proposal after a brief discussion.
The Aspen Lodging Association supports the move, said Warren Klug, board chairman and manager of the Aspen Square Hotel.
“I think we all recognize this is the best, most expedient way to do it,” he said.
The 1 percent sales tax on lodging would be added to an existing 1 percent lodging tax, the proceeds of which are split between resort marketing and the city’s free bus system. In other words, a 0.5 percent tax is devoted to marketing.
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, said Debbie Braun, ACRA president.
Last year, the chamber attempted 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 will simply seek to add to the existing lodging tax with a citywide vote. No special district is proposed.
“It’s not a slam dunk,” Klug predicted of the election outcome, “but I personally think if we do this thing right, we’ll get it passed.
“There are people who are going to vote no.”
“We need to get more than just the lodges’ support,” said Dale Paas, board member and representative of the Limelight Lodge. “We need to get more than just the businesses’ support.”
Mayor Mick Ireland has volunteered to lead the campaign to promote passage of the ballot measure, though the council has yet to formally agree to put it before voters. ACRA officials will meet with the council in a work session next month, Braun said.
The proposed tax, though it would be charged on hotel and lodging room stays, will make the community take a measure of responsibility for the resort’s tourism fortunes, Ireland said.
“I think this is a step we need to take,” he said. “Unfortunately, in Aspen, people only take the discussion seriously if they have to vote on it.”
This year’s marketing budget – to be spent on spring, summer and fall promotional efforts – totals $950,000, according to Braun. That sum includes $450,000 from the existing tax, plus a $100,000 grant from the city and a $400,000 loan from the city that is to be repaid over a five-year period.
If the 1 percent tax passes in November, part of the proceeds will go toward repaying the debt. If it doesn’t pass, ACRA will need to work out a longer repayment schedule with the city, Braun said.
She anticipates conducting a summit in May that draws community input into the marketing discussion.
The Aspen Skiing Co. spearheads the resort’s winter marketing efforts.