Aspen hotel guests taking test drives
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Car companies look to Aspen as a real gold mine.
Both Cadillac and Volvo supply vehicles free to Aspen hotels as loaner cars.
Their reasoning? Give well-heeled Aspen visitors a free test drive in a luxury vehicle in the hills around Aspen, and drivers just might get hooked.
Cadillac supplies the Sky Hotel in Aspen with two Escalades, a larger sport utility model, for use as shuttles. For exclusive guest use, two Cadillac SRXs, a smaller sport utility vehicle, are offered for free.
“Initially it started out as just kind of intended for VIPs,” said Sky Hotel guest service manager Nathan Rowland, but the vehicles remained parked with little use.
Today, Cadillac loaner cars are available to all guests on a first-come, first-served basis. The program has been going for more than two years.
“We’re just looking for the opportunity to get our vehicles to the right people, to our demographic, to get them to experience driving,” said Judy Sullivan, promotional manager at Cadillac.
High-end consumers rarely have time to go from dealer to dealer and test drive vehicles, Sullivan said.
“You’ve got to get [the car] in front of them at their convenience,” Sullivan said, adding a test drive is often what clinches a sale.
Cadillac regularly takes fleets of vehicles on traveling consumer tours and sponsors shuttles at a few other hotels, but the Sky Hotel program is the only test-drive hotel site in the United States, Sullivan said.
Cadillac is not planning any partnerships with major hotel chains, but company officials might expand the test-drive program to other boutique hotels, Sullivan said.
Cadillac also sponsors a handful of events every year at the Sky Hotel as a way to get exposure for the company name.
Sullivan said the Cadillac SRX, a smaller cross-over sport utility vehicle with all-wheel-drive and plenty of space to carry gear, is a good vehicle for guests to explore town or the mountains around Aspen.
Because there are just two cars at the Sky Hotel, staff don’t advertise the program to potential guests, Rowland said.
“It’s not something we push terribly hard,” Rowland said.
There are signs for the program in the hotel lobby. And loaner car use is more common in the summer months, as many visitors shy away from driving in snow, Rowland said.
The test-drive program is a good “guest conflict resolution tool,” Rowland said. There is no shuttle to the Pine Creek Cookhouse, for example, but guests can borrow a car to get there.
The Hotel Jerome, which is now run by Rock Resorts, took up Volvo as its official sponsor and now has two vehicles emblazoned with the sign “The official car of the Hotel Jerome” available to guests.
The Volvo XC90 is a sport utility vehicle and the XC70 is a wagon, both available to guests.
“The idea is for people to try a Volvo and maybe they’ll decide they want to buy one,” said Debbi Scholl, director of groups sales at the Hotel Jerome.
Registered Hotel Jerome guests can take a Volvo for up to four hours and can drive up to 100 miles out of Aspen, Scholl said. Guests must have a valid driver’s license and agree to share their contact information with Volvo before their free ride.
Since the program started in July, Volvo has taken care of all costs, including gasoline and maintenance, Scholl said.
If Hotel Jerome guests inquire about ways to get around town, hotel staff mention the free cars, but hotel marketers don’t advertise the free program on the hotel website or brochures, Scholl said.
“It was an outside of the box way to provide service,” Scholl said, and the loner cars are an extra amenity for guests who want to get out on their own to the vapor caves in Glenwood Springs, for example, without any added cost.
Rock Resorts, which owns the Hotel Jerome, employs similar programs at hotels across the country, including properties in Vail, Tahoe, Miami and the Bahamas, Scholl said.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.