Collaboration is a gem for local lodges
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A group of independently owned lodges that have banded together as “The Gems of Aspen” are enjoying a business boom during their first coordinated winter season.
The 11 lodges joined forces to market themselves as an affordable place to stay in a ritzy ski town, and the tactic is working, says one Gems member.
“Every month there’s been a substantial increase in the number of people looking at [the Gems’] Web site,” said Stan Hajenga, general manager of the Mountain Chalet. “At the Mountain Chalet, we get people calling us after they look at the site, mostly to ask about meetings and weddings.”
Each lodge put up money last summer to foot the bill for advertising and promotion. Gemsofaspen.com was set up just in time for the winter season, and the lodges are listed in the categories of Bed and Breakfast, European Chalets and Modern Classics.
“We’ve had journalists come in and write articles, and of course we’ve been promoting ourselves at some of the ski shows,” Hajenga said. “But a lot of this is from word-of-mouth with the ski groups that come in. Hopefully in the coming month our brochure will be ready.”
January has been a strong month for the Gems, he said. Although business during February and March is spotty so far, he attributes that uncertainty to the trend in booking vacations at the last possible minute.
“We’re tap-dancing all the time to keep up with what’s going on [in the travel industry],” Hajenga said.
One piece of group business the Gems managed to nail down is this summer’s national conference of the Performing Arts Medical Association ” an organization of physicians who care for and treat performing artists. Association members will stay at several different Gems of Aspen lodges, depending on their preference. In fact, part of the Gems’ charm for the physicians was its variety.
“We’re trying to work with groups that way, giving them a choice of what place they want to stay in, because none of our places is the same,” Hajenga said.
The Gems are also courting the Snowmass Village Resort Association, in hopes that groups that express a preference for staying in Aspen will be sent their way.
“Since [SVRA] sold the conference center, they’re looking for other places, and we need to get rid of this us-or-them feeling,” he said. Over all, he said the Gems of Aspen displays a certain camaraderie among local lodges who share each other’s problems and help each other with solutions.
“This is a lot more than a marketing effort ” we’re trying to cooperate and have a better sense of who we are,” he said. “We want to be old, affordable Aspen.”
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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