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More funds, new approach to market Aspen?

ASPEN ” Aspen’s marketing plan needs a new economy of scale if elected leaders are going to fork over another $200,000 next month to chamber officials in an effort to promote the resort for the rest of the year.

Mayor Mick Ireland told Aspen Chamber Resort Association officials on Tuesday that their marketing plan for spring, summer and fall needs some imagination, and shouldn’t be geared only toward rich clientele.

“We don’t need ‘please come to Aspen where we have $85 appetizers,'” he said, adding the days of branding Aspen as a high-end luxury market may be over given the national economy.



“We need to get the word out that you can actually afford to come here,” Ireland added. “We’ve got to send a message that we’re welcoming to the other 95 percent of the tourist base … not just the Bernie Madoff victims.”

Ireland’s comments were in response to ACRA’s request for an additional $200,000 in marketing funds. ACRA receives roughly $615,000 from the city through revenue generated by the 1 percent lodging tax.




ACRA officials say that other ski resorts have multimillion-dollar marketing budgets and have recently upped their efforts because of the recession.

The request came at the end of a two-hour session when the City Council slashed an additional $1 million from the budget. Cuts included pay reductions for all employees, as well as halting the construction of an outdoor pool.

Two weeks ago, City Hall laid off six employees. More cuts to employee benefits could be on the horizon.

Ireland said he understands the importance of marketing in a weak economic climate but said he doesn’t want the additional funds to be misdirected.

“It’s hard to find $200,000 for more of the same when we are laying people off,” he said. “I need to see something more innovative and more local.”

Julia Theisen, ACRA’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the marketing plan will be geared toward value-based guests. She was scheduled to meet Thursday with the group’s marketing advisory committee, local arts and culture organizations, and lodge representatives.

ACRA representatives will go before the council at the beginning of April to present the campaign, which, in its infant stages, includes specific promotions with lodges and an “access card” that will give deep discounts to guests all over town, depending on what businesses participate.

“We need to hash out the logistics of how to spend the money,” Theisen said. “$200,000 will definitely be a huge boost.”

Categories of guests to possibly be targeted through direct mailing would be families, adventure seekers, arts and culture, and those interested in spa and relaxation getaways.

“It will be something of significant value to the guest, and we’ll try to be as inclusive as possible,” Theisen said, adding that the promotions will occur anyway but additional money would allow ACRA to reach a broader base. “We are not looking at doing more of the same.”

ACRA CEO and President Debbie Braun told the council Tuesday that the summer and fall guests are more economically conscious, and typically drive here from around the region.

“It’s a different clientele,” she said. “But we are tuned in with what you are saying.”

Councilwoman Jackie Kasabach said marketing this summer and fall is critical to the Aspen economy, and choosing between cuts in City Hall and beefed-up promotions isn’t easy.

“Our marketing is going to the value-driven market,” she said. “I know it’s really, really hard but I think it’s extremely important to market our town.

“We need bodies here for the events we have.”

csack@aspentimes.com


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