Aspen losing cheap lodging – and lots of tourists |

Aspen losing cheap lodging – and lots of tourists

Sarah S. Chung

Aspen’s lodging bed base has eroded by 393 economy beds in recentyears, and with the imminent loss of the Grand Aspen Hotel, thecumulative impact is causing ripples of concern in the community.This year, Aspen Central Reservations has had to turn away 1,183nights’ worth of business in the economy lodging class – roomspriced at $150 or less per night, according to President BillTomcich.”It’s the single largest source of lost business,” he said. “Clearly,we’re alienating a lot of potential visitors, especially fromthe Front Range, with the lack of this type of accommodation.”At Central Reservations, which arranges about 30,000 nights oflodging every ski season, business is down by 16.7 percent overall,but the biggest crunch came in the cheapest tier of lodging, saidTomcich. Attempts are made to “upsell” potential visitors intomoderate lodging ($150 to $250 per night) or deluxe accommodations($250 and up), said Tomcich, but most simply aren’t interested- particularly in a lackluster snow year.The situation has been exacerbated by a common policy among hotelsand lodges to only offer package accommodations for a stay ofa week or more, and not for just a night or two, Tomcich said.”It’s posing a real challenge for us,” he said.The Aspen Chamber Resort Association estimates that the loss of393 economy beds represents a 38.5 percent reduction of the bedbase in that budget category.Economy lodging accounts for less than 10 percent of the totalshort-term accommodations available in Aspen. Some 42 percentfalls into the deluxe range, and about 50 percent is moderatelypriced, according to Aspen Central Reservations.When economy beds are lost to condominiums or other types of developmentand not replaced, that translates into a loss of thousands oftourists – and hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Kitty Boone,marketing director for the Aspen Skiing Co.The losses will likely mount when the wrecking ball takes downan additional 112 beds this fall at the Grand Aspen Hotel – aproperty slated for redevelopment. Boone calculates that in all,Grand Aspen beds are occupied by about 15,000 guests over thecourse of a 140-day ski season.”That’s 15,000 fewer diners eating in Aspen restaurants, 15,000fewer people to visit the shops and if, say, an average personspent just $25 a day, that’s $375,000 lost in revenue,” Boonesaid. “I think when a developer comes before the city and proposesto tear down a hotel, the city should look at the impact to thebed base, pro or con.””I don’t have the solution, but a flag definitely needs to beraised on the issue,” Boone said.

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