Aspen Chamber Resort Association lost 40 members last year |

Aspen Chamber Resort Association lost 40 members last year

ASPEN – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association had a net loss of 40 members and about $42,000 in revenues from membership dues between its 2008 and 2009 fiscal years, President and CEO Debbie Braun said Friday.

The number of members dropped from 866 two years ago to 826 last year, she said. The chamber collected $607,000 from membership fees two years ago. That dropped to $565,000 last year, according to the 2010 budget.

The loss is a direct result of the recession. Braun said ACRA will typically lose 100 members any given year, but it will also gain 100 members. But these aren’t typical times. The losses are greater than the gains.

Some of the retail shops, restaurants and service providers going out of business aren’t being replaced, Braun said. She pointed to vacancies in the commercial core as evidence.

The chamber anticipated most of the loss of members and revenues when the 2009 fiscal year budget was set. The staff and board of directors figured revenues from dues would drop 4.5 percent, to $580,000. The actual loss was $565,000, Braun said.

Additional losses are anticipated. The 2010 budget was passed at ACRA’s annual membership luncheon on Thursday. The budget anticipates $541,000 in revenues from membership dues, a decline of another 4.5 percent. That’s significant because more than half of the chamber’s annual revenues come from membership dues.

Braun said she will have a better idea of how membership numbers are shaping up once the first deadline for ski pass purchases nears on Sept. 24. ACRA-member businesses get a discount on passes for their employees. That’s one of the key perks for joining the chamber, and an incentive for businesses to pay their dues by late summer.

Right now, the membership numbers are down but the chamber has received a large volume of calls from businesses requesting a membership packet, Braun said. Member dues, which are based on the size and type of business, are the same price this year as last year.

While there are fewer chamber members, they generally are more active in the organization’s events, according to Braun. There has been more participation in chamber-sponsored events designed to create networking among members, for example, she said.

Comparing the 2009 budget to 2010 is largely irrelevant. The chamber’s board voted to switch to a calendar-year budget starting this year. So it has a “stub year” budget for 2010, with just eight months starting in May. ACRA’s fiscal year ended in April.

Despite declining revenues, ACRA ended the last fiscal year $38,000 in the black. It raised $30,000 more in event sponsorships than budgeted and reaped $10,000 in royalties as manager of a group insurance program. That helped offset the drop in revenues from membership dues. ACRA also curtailed expenses, in part by delaying when it filled two part-time positions.

ACRA also oversees programs that have dedicated budgets separate from its general budget. It operates the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Ambassador program, with funds contributed by Pitkin County. It raises summer marketing funds through a lodging tax in Aspen. Voters will decide in November if that lodging tax should be increased.

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