Aspen lodging tax increase wins nod at polls | AspenTimes.com

Aspen lodging tax increase wins nod at polls

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – A 1 percent Aspen lodging tax that will be devoted to marketing the resort won handily at the polls on Tuesday.

City voters approved Referendum 2A by tally of 1,734 to 1,034 – about a 63 to 37 percent margin, enacting the additional 1 percent tax on lodging in town. The move will boost the anticipated revenues available for marketing from a projected $450,000 to $1.4 million in 2011.

The city currently has a 0.5 percent tax on lodging, and devotes half of the proceeds to marketing, contracting with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to spend the money. The ACRA was expecting $450,000 in marketing funds next year without passage of 2A, and $1.4 million if the measure passed.

The chamber had already drafted a marketing plan for next year, focusing on spring, summer and fall promotions, events and advertising, that assumed passage of 2A. The ACRA is scheduled to present the plan to the City Council on Nov. 15.

The ACRA has spent the past year explaining the need for the funds to the community, after a failed attempt to put a special taxing district for marketing before some city voters a year ago. That measure was pulled from the ballot over confusion about who should be getting to vote on the measure and who shouldn’t.

Tuesday’s citywide vote to increase an existing tax was a better approach, and the time spent getting the word out about the need was beneficial, said Debbie Braun, ACRA president.

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“I’m kind of excited to put this behind us,” she said. “I’m really excited and very grateful for the community’s support.”

Local hotelier Warren Klug, chairman of the ACRA board of directors, lauded voters for understanding that the impact of marketing – bringing tourists to town – benefits everyone.

“I think it’s clear that the community values the marketing effort we’ve already seen from the ACRA and wants to see that expanded,” he said.

Voters exiting the polling place for precincts 1, 2 and 3 Tuesday afternoon offered viewpoints that framed the debate over 2A – whether additional marketing power would outweigh the impact of bumping up the cost of a tourist room.

One voter said he voted against the measure after booking a room for a friend in Aspen recently, and seeing the expenses tacked onto the room rate add up.

“I just felt like they were high enough already, I guess,” he said.

The tax on a lodging room in Aspen will go from the current 10 percent to 11 percent with the new tax.

Another man said he voted in favor of 2A, reasoning that it might help the resort, and that the tax wouldn’t affect him as a local resident.

“I’m never going to stay at those lodges, and the people who do can afford it,” he said.

“I voted for it,” said another resident. “I think it provides an opportunity to spend more dollars on marketing, which the chamber needs to do. Is it going to work? Who knows?”

janet@aspentimes.com