It’s all business for Aspen council candidates
ASPEN ” The nine people vying for a seat on the Aspen City Council agree that the resort shouldn’t be re-branded or marketed differently than it is now.
The question was posed to the candidates at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s City Council forum Friday at the Limelight Lodge. More than 100 questions were submitted by members of the chamber and a handful were asked of the nine candidates who are vying for two open seats.
When it comes to whether Aspen should be branded as a lower-priced resort, the answer was an emphatic “no” by every candidate.
The question was asked two days after Mayor Mick Ireland suggested that the business community push an “affordable Aspen” marketing campaign that plays off of the town’s altitude of 7,908 feet by packaging local discounts using those numbers.
Candidate Torre said ACRA historically hasn’t marketed Aspen as a playground for the rich. But he noted that there are fewer lower-priced restaurants here than in the past.
Torre also pointed out that media outlets might not buy into the “affordable Aspen” spin. The key, Torre said, is to keep Aspen a special place where people will want to come to experience it.
Candidate Mike Wampler said as long as real estate continues to drive the economy, the resort will be high-end. He added that Aspen shouldn’t be re-branded and ACRA is on track with its current marketing plans.
“Aspen will never be affordable as long as land prices stay where they are, and they aren’t coming down,” he said.
Candidate Jason Lasser said Aspen has an opportunity to capitalize on marketing its environmental initiatives that involve hydro, solar, geothermal and wind power technology. He likened Aspen’s green leadership and new energy economy as the silver rush.
“We are the testing ground for this,” Lasser said. “We have a really big opportunity. This can be a marketing tool.”
Candidate Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz Lodge, said visitors respond to price, and noted his rooms go for as low as $59 a night.
He said the city must work closely with cultural institutions like the Aspen Music Festival and The Aspen Institute to drive summer business.
“The [Music Festival] and the institute are pulling the wagon for the summer,” he said, adding marketing Aspen as affordable is challenging when the Aspen Skiing Co. is charging $96 a day for a lift ticket.
Candidate Derek Johnson said the business community needs to work together to promote package pricing, build their customer base and be proud of what Aspen is rather than change the resort’s image.
Incumbent Jackie Kasabach said not much ought to change except more deals need to be offered.
“I love our brand and the idea of adding value to the brand is essential,” she said.
Jack Johnson, who is seeking re-election, said Aspen shouldn’t have been branded in the first place. The town has lost its connection to its historical roots and the community needs to return to what made Aspen attractive in the first place.
Candidate Adam Frisch said sending the resort’s message to as many people as possible is critical in building Aspen’s clientele.
Candidate Brian Speck said the resort has been very clear with its marketing message and should stay on track with its promotions.
The candidates generally agreed on other issues posed to them ” solving traffic gridlock, building affordable housing and managing growth ” but they offered specific ideas and differing views on how to address them.
The entire ACRA forum can be viewed on GrassRoots TV, channel 12 ” on Monday, April 13 at 9 p.m.; Wednesday, April 15 at noon; and Saturday, April 18 at 10 a.m. The program also is available on GrassRoots Video Now starting Sunday; go to grassroootstv.org to learn more.
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