Survey helps tourism officials gauge when to hit gas or let off on marketing

People enjoy the Maroon Bells scenic area in Aspen.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times file photo

Do you have some thoughts on Aspen’s winter tourism? You have two weeks left to submit your survey or bite your tongue. 

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association recently opened a survey period for locals and visitors to assess the community and region’s winter tourism season. 

“This is part of the Aspen Destination Management Plan,” said Eliza Voss, vice president of destination marketing. “One of our strategies is to gain 360-degree feedback from the community.”

Questions on the visitor profile ask about vacation habits, entertainment, food and beverage preferences, health and wellness interests, outdoor recreation pursuits, and preferred places for vacation. There are also questions comparing or contrasting Aspen to other mountain resort destinations, such as Lake Tahoe and Vail/Beaver Creek.

People who work or live in Aspen are directed to a different survey asking about a myriad of lifestyle influences from tourism, traffic, livability to affordable housing, and more. Both surveys take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete. 

The Chamber Resort Association conducted a similar survey asking the community and visitors what they thought of the summer 2022 tourism season. The survey period was Nov. 28-Dec. 16, 2022, and resulted in 2,020 completed surveys. 

As of June 8, the association has collected 1,000 survey responses.

The survey has been shared through a community campaign, including a press release, social media, the association newsletter, community partners, and word of mouth.  

By word of mouth, local Amy St. John, a speech therapist, took the survey for the first time this week.

“My husband and I have lived in the valley for 12 years,” she said. “I was lucky to win a one-bedroom apartment in the employee-housing lottery, which has allowed us to stay here.”

Amy and Seth Johns say they have been finding themselves going downvalley more often with Aspen’s changes in recent years.
Amy Johns/Courtesy Photo

She said she and her husband, Seth, have adjusted their habits with Aspen’s changes in recent years.

“Over the past five years, we have significantly decreased the amount of time we spend in Aspen and find ourselves going downvalley more often to socialize with friends,” she said. “We rarely eat in Aspen, and most of the places we used to frequent have closed and either have not been replaced or replaced by a high-end restaurant.”

The survey aims to track sentiments such as hers.

Jillian Standley’s colleague recommended she take the survey. Standley is a crisis clinician for Aspen Hope and travels between Aspen and Parachute for work. She filled out the local’s survey.

“It reiterated how much there is to do here. I really feel that this is the best area of Colorado geographically; there’s so much more to do and see here compared to other ski towns such as Breckenridge,” she said. “There’s always something going on, paid events or free, and the area is very welcoming and diverse for people of all walks of life.” 

“We were very pleased with the turnout from the first survey round,” Voss said. “We use this data to gauge the public’s understanding and impact of the destination management plan, as well as inform what initiatives we should undertake going forward.” 

The current link takes survey takers to this page to fill out the proper survey.
ACRA/Courtesy Photo

Johns had lots of thoughts about tourism.

“In terms of tourism, I think it is a double-edged sword,” she said. “For any of us who live here to complain about the tourists, although we all do, we are being hypocritical because we moved to a tourism-central area and take advantage of many of the opportunities that tourism in Aspen has to offer.”

She added, “I love that I can ski world-class mountains, ride world-class trails, eat world-class food, and see world-class music right in our backyard because we are a tourist destination.”

Her response to the survey accounted for one additional factor: a baby on the way in October, forcing her and her husband to make tough choices about living and working in a tourist destination. 

“We are hoping for a bigger unit in the lottery, which would allow us to stay here,” St. John said. “We also have concerns about finding child care, as we both are planning on continuing to work.”

A surprise from the fall survey was locals’ knowledge of occupancy rates, Voss said.

“We were pleasantly surprised by people’s understanding of the economic impact of tourism on our community and the connection that tourism helps support the many festivals and experiences that lead to quality-of-life benefits we enjoy as a community. Sentiment in the local newspapers would lead you to believe people don’t recognize that, and ACRA knows it’s important to have the data to support our work and the tourism industry as a whole,” she said. 

Also of interest in fall survey results was people’s personal tolerance for tourism occupancy was in line with actual occupancy, though their perception was that the city was busier. The association interpreted this as the peak weekends driving this impression throughout the entirety of a season. 

Voss the data will help the Chamber Resort Association pivot between marketing and management tactics as needed to provide a sustainable tourism landscape for residents and visitors alike.   

Johns said she wished there were open-ended questions for some responses. She also said she believed the association responded to the community when there was a need for a pause and stopped promoting tourism during the off-seasons to give locals a break. 

“Time will tell for our family whether or not we will choose to continue to make Aspen work for us, but we have loved every minute we have had the opportunity to live in such an amazing place,” she said. “Sure, there are challenges to living here, and that has changed and evolved over the years, but every day when I leave my house, I think how lucky I am to live here.”

The current survey launched May 30 and is available online for submission until June 20. The results of the second round of the survey will be released later this summer. 

Visit here to take the survey: