Study shows decline in beds
The Aspen Times
Aspen’s loss of pillows
• The transient inventory in Aspen and Snowmass decreased in available units by -5.27 percent (217) and in pillows by -5.93 percent (1,118) from 2012 to 2015.
• The greatest shift in units and pillow decline was seen in Aspen with an -7.54 percent (173) decline in units and -8.84 percent (892) in pillows.
• Aspen accounts for 2,120 units (54 percent) and 9,193 pillows (52 percent).
• Snowmass accounts for 1,778 units (46 percent) and 8,546 pillows (48 percent).
• The primary source of this continued reduction of the bed base is the continued loss of condominiums and private homes rented through traditional property management companies. This segment represents a loss of more than 200 units between Aspen and Snowmass.
• The recent closure of both the Mountain House B&B and the Hotel Lenado together account for a further loss of 45 units in Aspen alone.
• 49 unique participating property management companies, representing a variety of property types, are included in the study, including 1 bed and breakfast, 25 hotel/lodge, 83 condominium properties and 102 private homes (based on a subjective interpretation of the naming conventions used by the respondents).
A Stay Aspen Snowmass study released Thursday reported a 7.5 percent decline in available lodging beds in Aspen since 2012 as well as a 4.4 percent bed decrease in Snowmass.
Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich said the study confirms what the organization has long been saying, that tourism beds in Aspen and Snowmass continue to shrink.
While the study does attempt to quantify, for the first time, the increasing rent-by-owner lodging category — which includes booking sites such as Airbnb, Vacation Rentals by Owner and Homeaway — the majority of these available units are not factored into the report’s overall projection.
The only rent-by-owner units that are considered in the study’s bed decrease are those that are also rented out via the traditional property management system, said Tom Foley, director of operations for DestiMetrics, the group that conducted the study.
However, the rent-by-owner lodging category is a worthy consideration into the overall picture, as is it accounts for nearly a fifth of the total beds in Aspen and Snowmass combined, according to the report.
To quantify local rent-by-owner units, Foley said he scans an Internet search of available units, looks at the rent-by-owner sites, determines which site has the largest representative inventory and then performs an audit of that search.
The Stay Aspen Snowmass report noted that while it is impossible to ensure that the data are 100 percent accurate, they are its most comprehensive study thus far.
Mayor Steve Skadron said evidence in the report suggests that the city’s lodging issue is valid.
“It is important to think strategically in order to maintain an appropriate resort community balance, which is the very thing that keeps Aspen distinct in the hearts and minds of locals and visitors,” Skadron said.
Looking toward the future, Skadron said supporting projects such as the Base2 application is a starting point in resolving the city’s lodging shortage.
Councilman Adam Frisch agreed.
“There’s still a bit of concern from City Hall that a resort town needs a certain amount of lodging,” Frisch said.
While Frisch also is an avid Base2 proponent, he said the development “is only one little nugget” of the greater lodging picture.
Councilman Bert Myrin, a vocal opponent of Base2, said he didn’t have time to comment on the report Thursday when reached by The Aspen Times.
One of Frisch’s biggest takeaways from the report was the discussion of rent-by-owner units, and particularly some of the language involved.
“This year’s study does also attempt to quantify the size of what Destimetrics refers to as the ‘gray market,’ which is now estimated to total 790 units, or 3,761 pillows, between Aspen and Snowmass combined, or roughly 17 percent of the total bed base,” according to the study.
Frisch said he takes a little offense to the producers of the report calling the rent-by-owner system a gray market, as it implies shady or unauthorized action.
The city of Aspen has implemented and enforced clear rules for rent-by-owner licensing, Frisch said, adding the non-traditional lodging is a value to the community.
It brings in guests that may not have been able to come to Aspen otherwise, Frisch said.
“And I think the vast majority of people are doing this within the rules,” he said.
City Community Development Director Chris Bendon confirmed some of Frisch’s observations toward Aspen’s rent-by-owner experience.
Bendon said the program has worked very smoothly since the city began issuing short-term licenses to residents in 2012.
In its first year, the department issued 65 licenses; in 2013, there were 22 licenses issued; in 2014, there were 45; and this year, the city issued 20 short-term licenses, Bendon said.
The process to apply for a short-term rental license is simple and doesn’t require any fees, Bendon said, adding that the Community Development Department sees this system as being very successful.
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For anybody who lives here on the Western Slope, “Wireless” will likely conjure up some bad memories of winter trips westbound on Interstate 70, when Eisenhower Tunnel closures left you stranded, when you sit parked waiting for an accident to clear for hours worried you’d run out of gas, or — as is the case with Andy — when you took a bad detour or shortcut.