Message about fire-free Aspen lacks tact
The state’s priority right now, and most likely for the rest of the summer, is clearly fire mitigation and control. The blazes burning out of control near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have awakened our biggest fears, that weather and forest conditions will collide to create what we are seeing now on the Front Range.
So it surprised us this week when the Aspen Chamber Resort Association used these fires for marketing purposes, to help draw people to the Aspen area. While its message was partly sensitive to the needs of those who are suddenly homeless or without a city, the overarching point could not be ignored – we are not on fire, so come here and enjoy all the wonderful summertime activities that Aspen and the surrounding area have to offer.
We understand that the chamber’s mission is to work to protect the interests of its members. State and national television media seem to be screaming to the world that all of Colorado is ablaze, which not only is untrue but is bad for local business. If advance hotel bookings are an indication – and they usually are – the summer of 2012 is shaping up to be a great one for the local economy. It would be a shame to lose even a small percentage of that business because the TV newshounds are doing what they do best: sensationalizing a story for dramatic effect in a vain attempt to lure viewers (and therefore advertising dollars).
That said, our chamber’s message was largely inappropriate and not the way we encourage Aspen to be marketed to the outside world.
We’d like to encourage our chamber to coordinate local actions that allow for fundraisers and volunteer support for those unlucky Front Range and mountain communities that are suffering through the fires. This type of approach would showcase Aspen’s considerable caring side, which has been proven many times over the years, recent examples being the widespread support for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the charity the community provided in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and the Japanese earthquake in 2011.
The good will that such a gesture could generate would more than compensate for any economic loss due to temporary misperceptions about the wildfires and their effect on Colorado resort destinations. We’re talking not about monetary compensation but rather the intangible benefits that come from knowing that we helped our neighbors during a time of crisis. It is one thing to promote Aspen as a spectacular, healthy place. It’s quite another to capitalize on the bad fortunes of others.
We can do better, and we should because one day we might be the city fighting the big fire. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
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