Aspen mayor calls for a high-altitude marketing effort to right town |

Aspen mayor calls for a high-altitude marketing effort to right town

ASPEN ” Mayor Mick Ireland, who is running for re-election, launched a new marketing initiative Wednesday that would send the message that the resort is affordable.

Ireland held a press conference in front of Zele coffee shop, which was scheduled to close April 12 but because of the worsening economic climate, has permanently shut its doors.

“Just yesterday, we were checking on the disposition of this place,” Ireland said of organizing the gathering. “Things are proceeding faster than we expected them to … in the wrong direction.”

Ireland told about a dozen supporters and community leaders that with the help of the chamber of commerce, the Aspen Skiing Co., local lodges and businesses, he would like to play on Aspen’s altitude ” 7,908 feet. He said a variety of activities can be priced in relation to that number, including golf rounds, dinners-for-two packages and a host of other discounts.

It’s a play on what Denver did by marketing 5280, which is the number of feet in a mile.

It’s a long-term marketing strategy that Ireland said he hopes will make people think differently about Aspen, which is known internationally as a playground for the rich.

As all segments of the population continue to be hit hard by the national recession, Aspen needs to expand its customer base and become more value driven, Ireland said, adding the resort needs to get away from the “bling and glitz” that the national media likes to focus on. As a result of that type of focus, Ireland said some potential guests perceive Aspen as unapproachable.

Ireland noted that Aspen has free art, free classical music, inexpensive local nightlife, free trails, free nordic skiing, free buses and a host of free or low-cost educational forums and athletic events.

“We offer a lot to everybody no matter what your income level,” he said. “We need to get the attention of the world that Aspen is inclusive, welcoming and affordable.”

Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry, who attended the press conference, said Aspen has been marketed as an affordable place to visit but it’s been overshadowed by the image of glitz and glamour.

He said Aspen needs to diversify its guest base and differentiate itself from other resorts, who also are heavily marketing the value-driven message.

Ireland said the time is now to get creative.

“This is only an initial concept, one we hope to develop with [ACRA] and others in the weeks and months ahead,” according to a press release issued by Ireland. “I urge Aspenites to join this new initiative, to share the wisdom of their experience with their neighbors and friends in the business community.”

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