City likes 2003 marketing plan, but wants better way of tracking results | AspenTimes.com

City likes 2003 marketing plan, but wants better way of tracking results

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A 2003 marketing plan that boosts spending to generate special events won an informal nod from the Aspen City Council Monday, but members want to know if their dollars get results.

Councilman Tim Semrau led the call to track the city’s marketing expenditures to see if they’re producing the desired effect ? namely more tourist visits to Aspen.

He focused primarily on the proposed $67,500 slated for Internet advertising ? a budget that was cut to provide more special events seed money.

“Do our dollars in the Internet get us much?” Semrau asked. “We should figure out how to track it.”

“We need to know where we’re getting the bang for the buck,” agreed Mayor Helen Klanderud.

The council offered no objections, however, to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s latest plan for spending $400,000 in city marketing dollars next year. Money from the city lodging tax will be augmented by $50,000 from other sources for a $450,000 marketing budget next year, said Hana Pevny, ACRA president.

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Next week, the council is expected to formally approve a contract with the ACRA to oversee Aspen’s marketing plan for 2003.

Early on, it appeared the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission would make a bid for some of the dollars to help foster new special events that could draw visitors. The ACRA and CCLC recently reached a compromise, though, that puts $40,000 into a grant fund for special events. In addition, the ACRA will allocate about $39,000 in staff costs, including a marketing/special events assistant, to the cause.

“What we bring back to you, we think, is a better plan,” said John Sarpa, ACRA board member and chairman of its marketing committee.

The grant fund will be overseen by a new Special Events Advisory Group, he explained. It is not intended to produce events, but to help others get events off the ground.

“Now, if somebody’s got a good idea and they need X amount of money ? this fund can provide the seed money,” Sarpa said.

“I think the intent is to get new and different types of events that can grow,” said Pevny, though she expressed regret at cutting back on Internet marketing to boost the special events funding.

“I’m a little disappointed because that’s where we’ve had the greatest success,” she said.

The summer Internet campaign produced about 2,000 hits on the Stay Aspen Snowmass Web site, but Semrau quizzed ACRA officials on how many of those hits led to actual bookings.

“It would be good to know if anything we do is meaningful,” he said.

The ACRA’s sense is that those hits are a good indicator of people booking stays, though they may pick up the phone and call a lodge or hotel rather than book a vacation through Stay Aspen Snowmass, said Molly Campbell, ACRA board chairwoman.

“It’s worth the probability that you’re going to get real bookings out of it,” Sarpa said.

Stay Aspen Snowmass and the ACRA are working on a system to better track results, Pevny said.

“We know how many people are out there looking at our ads, where they come from and how they’re getting there,” she said. “It’s that last step.”

Travel industry statistics, at least, bode well for Aspen’s marketing efforts on the Internet, Pevny noted. An estimated 62 percent of all travelers use the Internet to research vacations and 32 percent actually book their stays online, she reported.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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