Aspen chamber to campaign for lodging tax increase

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association announced Monday it will actively campaign for a 1 percent lodging tax increase meant to boost marketing initiatives for Aspen.

A number of representatives of Aspen’s service industry attended ACRA’s press conference to support the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot as one that would stimulate the economy by bringing new visitors to town.

“For the small lodges, we might not have the resources of the … Hotel Jerome,” said Charlie Case, the innkeeper at the Annabelle Inn. He stressed that the increase would allow small resorts like the Annabelle a more level playing field.

Several at the meeting stressed the need for the additional revenue because the down economy is causing a slump in the marketing budget.

Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, after giving a presentation about the ballot question, endorsed it. The City Council was unanimous in its decision to put the measure on the ballot late last month.

The tax, which will not be imposed on Aspen residents, will be paid from the pockets of visitors.

ACRA board Chairman Warren Klug said the increase would not push visitors away. On the contrary, officials said, it would market Aspen to a wider demographic of potential tourists.

New revenues will be added to the marketing budget, which is fed by the current 0.5 percent lodging tax. The City Council controls the account, Ireland said.

The current budget for marketing is $950,000. If the increase passes, officials expect that to increase to about $1.35 million.

It is meant to create a more robust marketing culture, as well as stimulate new events, such as making Aspen a stop on a professional mountain bike racing circuit for next year.

At 10 percent, Aspen charges less than the nearly 12 percent average that other resort towns collect in sales taxes, according to an ACRA report. Denver collects nearly 15 percent.

It is one of several proposals on November’s ballot that deal with special tax districts, including increases in mill levies for the Aspen School District and an expansion for Aspen Valley Hospital.

Klug stressed that Aspen voters should not consider this initiative in the context of three controversial statewide tax-slashing initiatives that ACRA formally opposed on Aug. 31.

Rob Ittner, a local restaurant owner who is running for a county commissioner seat this fall, also attended the press conference to support the ballot question.