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Survey: Aspen’s summers bringing repeat business

Janet Urquhart

Most visitors to Aspen in the spring, summer and fall give high marks for their vacation experience, which, perhaps, is no surprise since most of them have been here before.

Their perceptions about the value they receive for their money, however, are less enthusiastic, even though Aspen’s nonwinter visitors are, by and large, an affluent bunch.

Visitor survey results released this week by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association indicate Aspen’s natural beauty, along with cultural events and outdoor recreational opportunities, are what draw tourists to the resort when the chairlifts aren’t running.

The latest data on visitor demographics, their reasons for visiting Aspen and their assessment of everything from things to do here to their desire to return will be poured over in the weeks to come, according to Chris Nolen, ACRA president and CEO.

A newly formed Marketing Advisory Committee, charged with putting together a marketing plan for Aspen funded by a new tax approved by voters last November, will likely find plenty of helpful information in the survey results, Nolen said.

The survey, commissioned by the ACRA, was conducted by Leisure Trends Group, a Boulder-based research company. The survey is conducted every three years.

Surveys were mailed to guests who stayed in local lodges from June to September 2000. For the first time, the ACRA also interviewed day visitors, campers and second-home owners last summer.

Nearly 200 surveys of day visitors were gathered. Of the 2,558 surveys that were mailed, 806 were completed and returned, according to the ACRA.

Three-quarters of the respondents had been to Aspen before – about half of them had made a wintertime trip to Aspen and the other half had been here previously during the spring, summer or fall. Most (92 percent) rated their experience as very favorable and nearly all (97 percent) indicated they would visit yet again.

“Once we get ’em here, they are totally sold,” Nolen said. “There was no indication from visitors that their experience wasn’t everything they expected.”

More than half (57 percent) of the nonwinter visitors attended a cultural event during their stay, and 31 percent of them attended an Aspen Music School and Festival event. In 1997, just 20 percent of the nonwinter visitors reported attending a cultural event.

Three-quarters of the nonwinter visitors took a hike, according to the 2000 survey results, while 37 percent reported bicycling during their stay, 17 percent went rafting and 16 percent played golf.

Day visitors, however, are more likely to be first-time visitors to Aspen (61 percent) and are less likely to participate in an outdoor activity (89 percent), according to the survey results.

Survey results, however, seem to indicate that some vacationers are not overly impressed with the variety of things to do in Aspen in the spring, summer and fall – reflecting the ever-increasing expectations of tourists, Nolen noted.

“I think that’s very telling because I think we’ve got a lot to do here in the summer,” she said.

Evaluations of the cost of a stay in Aspen were also unfavorable, with only one-quarter of the respondents giving the value for their dollar an “excellent” or “very good” rating.

The poor marks on value came despite a jump in household income among nonwinter visitors from 1997 to 2000. Respondents in last year’s survey reported an average household income of $161,000, compared to $131,000 three years ago.

Visitor demographics also indicate more families are coming to Aspen in the spring, summer and fall than three years ago. Seventy-five percent of last year’s survey respondents came from outside Colorado, compared to 70 percent three years ago.

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Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2001


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