Isn’t that special! ACRA, CCLC compromise on special events | AspenTimes.com

Isn’t that special! ACRA, CCLC compromise on special events

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is working out some details of their 2003 marketing budget using suggestions from the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission.

Chamber president Hana Pevny presented ACRA’s 2003 marketing plan to the Aspen City Council at a Tuesday work session, spelling out the chamber’s plans for $400,000 generated by the city’s lodging tax. Although $20,000 of the money falls into the “special events” subcategory, the CCLC has suggested that even more emphasis needs to be placed on creating events to bring guests to town.

According to CCLC members, the group’s interest in how special events are run in Aspen was sparked last winter when it appeared that the HBO-sponsored U.S. Comedy Arts Festival might not come back to Aspen in 2002. The CCLC became focused on setting up a specific local group that could both protect existing events and create new ones.

The CCLC was set to present the City Council with their view of how the marketing tax dollars should be spent, but Pevny told the council that a “meeting of the minds” with the commission Tuesday afternoon helped bring the groups closer to a compromise on the subject of special events.

According to CCLC member Andrew Kole, the draft compromise includes a mandate that the $20,000 be spent on a minimum of two small summer events. Also, the CCLC would like ACRA to support the events with advertising and public relations efforts.

The compromise also outlines how one ACRA staff member, hired to work with marketing efforts, could reallocate his time to work on putting together sponsorships for new special events. The position might include bonuses from commissions, eventually becoming a self-funding job, Kole said.

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Pevny said reallocating the staff member’s priorities would not take extra money out of ACRA’s marketing budget. She said the ACRA board of directors will meet with the CCLC to try to incorporate some of the suggestions into the marketing plan.

But the compromise will ultimately depend on the decisions made by ACRA’s board, she said.

Although the difference of opinions on how the tax money is spent has been referred to as a “war” between the two organizations, many at the work session said the CCLC is simply interested in working with ACRA for the best way to market Aspen.

“We represent the concerns of the community. This is not us looking for money to take away from ACRA,” said CCLC member John Starr. “We want to work with ACRA, and we felt this sort of program should be done under the eaves of ACRA.”

The special events aspect of the marketing plan is one of several components, including advertising, public relations efforts and Web-based marketing.

“We’re coming together to focus more time and dollars on special events, and it’s just one part of a great plan,” said Aspen Square Hotel manager Warren Klug, who sits on an ACRA subcommittee looking into special events.

The City Council agreed that ACRA and the CCLC should work together to fully develop the compromise. Although the groups will try to meet an Oct. 1 deadline to reach an agreement, the deadline may be waived if the process takes a little longer.

ACRA’s current marketing plan includes coordination with several local entities, including the Aspen Skiing Co. Both ACRA and the Skico have hired Boulder-based Sterling Rice Group to develop advertising. The marketing plan’s success will be measured by looking at any increases in the lodging tax, bookings, group sales and Web traffic.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]