ACRA eyes part-timer market
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association wants to hop in bed with second-home owners but it’s uncertain what to do when it gets there.Chamber officials want to tap second-home owners as an income source and customer base because they have become such an important part of Aspen’s economy. More second homes and fractional ownership units are being developed while lodge and hotel rooms are disappearing.While creating its strategic plan, the resort association determined that it needs to develop more of a relationship with second-home owners, said board of directors Chairman Rick Jones.But opinions differ about what type of relationship to develop.Some members of the board of directors just want to see if the business community is meeting the needs of second-home owners. Other board members suggested at a meeting Tuesday that ACRA could provide a voice for second-home owners in local political issues and civic debates.”In the past the seasonal visitor has been treated as a pariah,” board member Ed Foran said.Board member Shae Singer said second-home owners could be used as more of a resource in important debates like downtown parking and the Entrance to Aspen.Other board members warned that ACRA could run into trouble if the interests of second-home owners differed from the chamber’s broader responsibilities to the business community.Board director Molly Campbell said ACRA would have trouble serving the needs of second-home owners if they opposed increased marketing to attract more tourists, for example, or opposed expansion of the airport.Other board members agreed that second-home owners might prefer shorter chairlift lines and fewer people competing for restaurant seats while the chamber’s job is to fill the town.”We need to keep in mind what our purpose is, and that’s to serve our businesses,” said board member Mickey Spalding.ACRA has pondered its relationship with second-home owners for years. A different set of administrators and board members tried in the mid-1990s to create a position on the board of directors for a representative of second-home owners. The effort failed for lack of interest.Board member Mike Taets said second-home owners want to be treated like year-round residents. “They don’t want to be special. They want to be one of us,” he said.He also questioned whether second-home owners would want ACRA to provide them with a political voice. “Our political track record’s not that great,” Taets said.Jones said he didn’t want to stop efforts to develop a relationship with second-home owners, and the rest of the board concurred. He directed the board’s Seasonal Residents Committee to rework the wording of a letter that will be sent to second-home owners to try to develop a relationship. That letter, Jones said, must “back off” suggestions that ACRA could be their political advocates.The letter will be reviewed at a later meeting before it is sent to the absentee owners of homes in Pitkin County.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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