Aspen chamber projects $2.4 million on marketing in 2016 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen chamber projects $2.4 million on marketing in 2016

Aspen Chamber Resort Association outlined some of its destination marketing goals and introducted its 2016 projected budget during its monthly board of directors meeting Tuesday.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association's projected marketing budget for 2016 is nearly seven times what it was in 2000, as Aspen's marketing efforts as a destination city have evolved substantially in the past 15 years.

In 2000, the chamber's annual marketing budget was $350,000, said Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing, at the chamber's monthly board of directors meeting Tuesday at the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel.

Theisen said the marketing budget took off with an initiative begun by lodges and business in 2000 that led to a 1 percent lodging tax split between the city's Transportation Department and destination marketing efforts. Until then, the city didn't really have a centralized community marketing effort, Theisen said.

Ten years later, in 2010, the lodging tax was increased to 2 percent, three-quarters of which went to the chamber's marketing department. Since 2010, the budget has grown organically as the economy has risen, Theisen said, up to its projected budget for 2016 of $2.4 million, which is its highest to date. The board unanimously approved the budget.

Theisen led a presentation Tuesday of the chamber's destination marketing goals for 2015, one of which was to improve and expand its social-media outreach. The chamber's "Aspen Co" Instagram account saw its stable of followers increase from 6,601 to 26,200 this year. That is Instagram's highest growth of followers among ski resorts so far in 2015, Theisen said.

She attributed much of that success to the chamber's increased photography efforts, which were another key marketing goal for 2015.

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The number of the chamber's Facebook followers has increased 85 percent over 2014 — from 60,492 to 111,943 fans. Theisen noted that the chamber's Twitter followers, who grew 18 percent over 2014, could improve.

According to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich, Aspen's paid lodging occupancy for September was up nearly 14 percent over last year, while Snowmass' paid occupancy was up just over 26 percent from last year.

Tomcich said recent growth trends have been staggering and that bookings for December — not just Christmas and the new year but the entire month — show some of the strongest growth he's ever seen in Aspen.

Aspen's July and September occupancy ranked second-highest among 12 mountain resorts, Theisen reported at the meeting.

Aspen Square Condominium Hotel general manager Warren Klug said there's a community sentiment that Aspen gets plenty busy as it is and doesn't need to work to attract more visitors. But Klug countered that Aspen is full about five or six weeks of the year, and there are times occupancy takes a surprising dip, such as a few days before or after the Fourth of July. While the weekends may be full in September, the weeks are not, Klug continued, adding that "no business in town would say they're having too much business."

"There's always room," he said.

Tomcich said United and American Airlines have expressed serious interest in adding flights into and out of Aspen, adding that both airlines extended the duration that some of their flights that were offered this summer. American extended its Dallas/Fort Worth flights through Sept. 8, while United continued its Chicago nonstop flight through Sept. 22 and its Los Angeles nonstop flight through Oct. 24, Tomcich said.

In 2016, the chamber will receive its income from the city after its funds are collected for the month. In the past, it has collected income according to its projected monthly revenue. That means the chamber will likely not receive any income until mid-March, Theisen said. The city's goal with the change is to match the disbursements for marketing contracts with collection of the lodging tax, said Don Taylor, city of Aspen finance and administrative services director.

Theisen said this transition is more logical from an accounting standpoint, adding that while it may lead to less cash flow in the first quarter of next year, it will be the same amount of revenue in the long term.

erobbie@aspentimes.com