Aspen’s ‘token’ parking promotion a hit |

Aspen’s ‘token’ parking promotion a hit

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen’s offseason enticement to shop and dine downtown apparently paid off – for consumers and local businesses.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association distributed 5,462 free parking tokens to 357 consumers who spent a total of $92,250 during the spring promotion, which ended Friday.

Those who received tokens were mostly area residents – 330 of them resided in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt or Carbondale, while 27 indicated they came from the Front Range or out of state, according to the chamber.

The program – four free tokens for every $50 spent on taxable items in Aspen, excluding groceries and pharmaceuticals – was announced May 7.

It was a rather hastily devised promotion after the city government approached ACRA asking what it could do to help the business community during the offseason – a typically slow period compounded by a foundering economy.

“I think many people took advantage of it, including myself,” said ACRA president Debbie Braun. “It was very successful.”

Without any real idea of what to expect, Braun said she was hoping to see 10,000 tokens given out, but was pleased with the result nonetheless.

She’s hoping to see the Dine-Shop-Park program repeated, possibly during the fall offseason.

To participate, shoppers and diners had to take their receipts to one of ACRA’s three downtown visitors centers to redeem them for the tokens. Each $1 token is worth a half-hour of parking in the downtown core. Four tokens buys two hours of parking. Customers were limited to 24 tokens per week.

“The feedback we got at the visitors centers was a lot of locals were very excited,” Braun said.

The offseason is a time when local consumers largely outnumber tourists, so the promotion was a good way for the tourism-oriented ACRA to connect with the local populace, she added.

“On the whole, I think from the chamber’s perspective, we got to talk to a ton of people we don’t normally talk to, which is the local people,” Braun said.

Late last year, the city offered several weekends of free downtown parking on Saturdays (Sundays are always free) to help spur shopping before the Christmas holiday. But there was no way to document how many people took advantage of the parking to spend money in town versus go skiing or park free while they went to work.

The spring promotion allowed ACRA to track the number of consumers who took advantage of the deal and where they came from. It also forced some on-the-fly policy decisions.

“We just kind of made it up as we went,” Braun said. “We hadn’t thought it all the way through.”

For example, she said, shoppers who spent a little more than $50 wanted credit for the remaining sum so it could be added to future spending until they’d reached the $50 threshold for more tokens. The chamber declined, but if a shopper who spent $50 was very close to the $100 mark, which would trigger additional tokens, the chamber gave them out, Braun said.

While grocery shopping in Aspen was excluded from the promotion, some people not only tried using their grocery receipts, they brought receipts from the El Jebel City Market. Needless to say, they didn’t qualify for tokens.

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