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Aspen hotels seek DNC business

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” For a Republican living in Denver, the prospect of being surrounded by tens of thousands of Democrats in late August, when the Democratic National Convention comes to town, might not be all that pleasing.

And, in fact, some of those Democrats themselves may tire of hanging around with their party compatriots and need a little break.

At least, that’s what some Aspen lodges are thinking, prompting them to crank up the public relations machinery and offer discounted room rates and other promotional enticements to lure weary political junkies of all stripes across the Great Divide.

“It’s been talked about,” said Bill Tomcich, president of the Stay Aspen Snowmass booking agency, which works with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) and local lodges to attract customers to the Aspen area.

“Obviously, it’s a great time of the summer for us,” Tomcich added, explaining that between the last day of the Aspen Music Festival ” Aug. 17 ” and the opening day of the five-day Labor Day Jazz Aspen-Snowmass Festival ” Aug. 28 ” Aspen typically goes into a slump as far as lodging occupancy is concerned.

“It’s something we’ve all been looking at as an opportunity, for sure,” Tomcich said. “It coincides very well with the first week that things start to slow down around here.”

For example, he said, last year occupancy numbers dropped from 81 percent during the last week of the Aspen Music Festival to 65 percent in the last week of August.

Looking ahead, predictions are that Labor Day weekend occupancy is “shaping up to be a lot stronger than last year,” but the week prior to the JAS festival stands right now at about 40 percent, Tomcich said.

The Sky Hotel in Aspen seems to have invested the most in capitalizing on what it hopes will be a form of burnout on the part of everyone, from Denver residents to visitors from afar hoping for a little Rocky Mountain fix before heading home.

From Aug. 10 through Sept. 5, the DNC Escape package includes 15 percent off room rates on Thursdays through Saturdays, or 20 percent off for Sunday through Wednesday; a $25 gas card; free valet parking and, for those who want to wear their politics on their lapels, the choice of either an elephant or a donkey pin, symbols of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.

With all the package components figured in, the hotel is advertising DNC Escape room rates starting at $259 per night, said Alan Cardenas, director of sales and marketing at Sky Hotel.

The marketing campaign includes press releases to selected media, mostly in states adjacent to Colorado but including Washington, D.C., as well as a page on the hotel’s website.

“It’s just a fun idea,” he said. “We’re just trying to lighten up the mood, maybe get some people who are already coming to Colorado to come over here,” adding that there is “as much value to getting our name out there as to actually booking rooms.”

The Cruisin’ Sky package, according to Dana Pluss of Scream Agency, includes discounted room rates on Sundays through Thursdays, bringing the cost to about $249 per night with no minimum stay, a deal that began on July 1 and will continue through Sept. 13.

Over at The Little Nell, which is owned by the Aspen Skiing Co., marketing director Justin Todd said he also is looking for some spill over from Denver in late August.

But, he said, “We are doing it more on the group side than on the transient side, [meaning] individual guests.”

He said the Nell’s marketing department started reaching out to various groups, on both the Democrat and Republican side of the political spectrum, offering discounted rates on weekdays with special events and activities for the visitors. He declined to give specific prices. So far, he said, one group of 20 has signed up, and two others are thinking about it, all around the time of the convention.

The St. Regis Hotel, according to marketing director Ben Mollere, also is advertising reduced room rates starting “a few days before the convention begins, to a few days after it ends.”

The PR campaign, he said, includes a planned article in The Denver Post about the promotion, offering rooms at $275 per night from Aug. 22 through Aug. 28, rooms that typically go for the “rack rate” of $695 per night.

“This is an aggressive discount,” he said. “It comes at a good time. It’s really a rate enticement that will hopefully get us some traction with those who would say, ‘I usually go to Breckenridge or Vail, but I’ll get an even better time in Aspen.”

He said that while the hotel has been doing a brisk business this summer, he expects that room occupancy will drop off somewhat toward the end of August.

ACRA, while not involved in marketing efforts with the hotels or lodges mentioned, is offering several general promotional deals that include free gas, a “carbon offset” package of free bicycle rentals and free bus passes to the Maroon Bells.

“With the whole green theme of the DNC this year,” said Alex De L’Arbe of Promo Inc. which works with the ACRA, “our carbon offset seems to be a good choice” for visitors interested in minimizing their environmental impact.

In addition, ACRA and Stay Aspen Snowmass have an ongoing package of discounted rooms on Sundays through Thursdays, with participating lodges, that runs through the end of the summer.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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