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Aspen Chamber Resort Association wants to be ready when the doors open

Hikers make their way toward the Maroon Bells on Monday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association won’t exactly be tooting its promotional horn for tourism this summer, but it wants to be ready to pitch visitors when public health orders and restrictions are scaled back.

The organization — which is in the business of promoting local businesses — unveiled to its members Tuesday ideas for a tourism recovery plan that would launch when public health orders allow tourism to resume. That could be later in the summer or beyond.

Typically during this time of the year — when the lifts are closed and business has settled down for the offseason — ACRA typically would be preparing for its biggest event of the summer, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and a host of other large draws that have been canceled including the Aspen Ideas Festival in late June and early July, and the JAS June Experience concert series.

“We get it,” ACRA President Debbie Braun said during the organization’s board of directors meeting, which was held over the Zoom video-conference platform. “Until the public health order is lifted, we understand lodging probably won’t be opening … and that public gatherings are a ways away. But if we don’t start putting things into place right here and now, and getting some commitments, we won’t be ready to reopen.”

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Pitkin County’s stay-at-home order is in place through May 8, with modifications after that pending. Aspen also has made face coverings mandatory within city limits until at least May 27. Restrictions also limit gatherings to no more than five people unless in a household group.

From a marketing standpoint, ACRA is eying a campaign intended to entice would-be visitors through “the healing power of nature,” said marketing director Eliza Voss.

“There is a heightened consciousness to all customers for what really matters,” she said. “And we feel that we have different ways to set us apart from our competition and we have that heightened sense of community. We think we are well positioned when people are ready to travel again.”

Voss said locals should be versed “on the role of tourism and the quality-of-life aspect we have here in Aspen so we are ready to welcome the visitors back and welcome them wholeheartedly, because they do contribute to the ecosystem of Aspen.”

ACRA’s campaign would promote Aspen’s vast outdoor surroundings and “the physical distancing possibilities in our wide open spaces,” Voss said, adding that “we’re hearing from many hotels. … They are not going to do hugely discounted room rates, so it’s important to add value to that guest experience.”

Braun said ACRA would discuss the campaign with the city and other leaders, while acknowledging a marketing promotion “isn’t (the city’s) No. 1 priority right how. I like to think of this as a phase two or phase three when appropriate.”

Aspen hotels also are banding together to discuss strategies, and like other industries, they are watching how the pandemic will respond locally with more people back in town doing construction — which resumed Monday locally.

“We’ve talked about opening lodging at a tiered process and what a break-even might look like,” said Heather Steenge-Hart, general manager of the St. Regis Aspen Resort, “so at least when we open we have enough rooms to break even.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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