Aspen elected officials want focus on residents, not tourists, in destination management plan
Protecting quality of life and a sustainable community should be strong pillars with action items in Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s destination management plan, council members say
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association has to do more than just cease marketing the town in the off-seasons to help foster a sustainable community.
That was the message from Aspen City Council to Eliza Voss, ACRA’s vice president of destination marketing, during a work session Monday in which she presented the organization’s recently completed destination management plan.
One of the biggest departures from normal business for ACRA in the plan is back off on promoting tourism during the spring and fall in an effort to manage crowds and improve quality of life for residents.
While council’s feedback on the plan ran the gamut from supporting congestion-based pricing to enter town, like a toll road, and free bus service from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, most of the discussion was based on the desire for ACRA to think about the residents before the guests.
“I have a somewhat cynical view on tourism, and I think that we perhaps are over-visited at this point,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said. “I have had a fair amount of interaction with frontline employees in the last couple of years and they’ve been beat up and burned out … our guests now are really rude, and they’re demanding, and I don’t know how to mitigate that, but what we can do to retain our local workforce is really important.”
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said while there are great elements in the plan, she would like to see more action items rather than lofty goals when it comes advocating for a sustainable community.
“I think that part of what’s happening is when you pay $50,000 a month for a place in Woody Creek or a few thousand a night, you tend to think that the whole town is getting a slice of that and they all owe you something, and we’re just not seeing that, and you reference that throughout your very detailed report of social inequity and resentment building,” she said. “I think that there needs to be a lot more put into the actions, because what’s really happening is we are talking about the quality of life for our residents.”
She and Hauenstein suggested that ACRA be a leader and set aside some of its budget for housing its own employees.
Acknowledging that ACRA cannot operate in a vacuum or address the complex issues facing the community by itself, Hauenstein said he supports not marketing the off-seasons.
“I am so appreciative of ACRA changing from trying to get people here to focusing more on a sustainable community, and I know this is a new role for ACRA,” he said. “Don’t take offense, but I think you are behind the curve on some of these things because it’s new to you, but I really welcome the engagement of a full ACRA community towards a sustainable community, because we need that more than we need tourists.”
Voss noted in her presentation that the destination management plan will be carried out over five years, and ACRA will play both a leader and advocate in different areas.
“This is something that belongs to the community, and it will really take a community lift to get it off the ground,” she said.
On Monday night, the City Council listened to ideas for each old building. However, nothing laid out what the community space would actually entail — only aspirations and gathered community comment.