Work starts on new marketing plan for Aspen
Revenues from Aspen’s new lodging tax will begin accruing Jan. 1. The first brainstorming session on how best to spend them will take place three days later.
The city has contracted with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to devise a marketing strategy using an expected $500,000 in annual income from the bed tax approved in November. The 1 percent tax on short-term lodging will generate another $500,000 annually that is earmarked for mass-transit uses.
The promise of a marketing fund bought support for the tax from many in the city’s lodging industry. Now it’s up to the ACRA to produce some much-anticipated benefits to offset the feared consequences of slightly bumping up the cost of a stay in Aspen.
The chamber, which twice proposed a bed tax itself – both proposals were shot down at the polls – is acutely aware of the expectations the business community has for the new marketing fund, said chamber president Christine Nolan.
A newly formed Marketing Advisory Group will meet Jan. 4 to begin devising a strategy to better market the resort.
“It has some significant lodging representation on it, given it is a lodging tax,” Nolan said. The service and retail sectors, as well as the Aspen Skiing Co., are also represented in the group.
The first step, Nolan said, will be assessing the marketing efforts that already exist. That includes the marketing plans of the ACRA, Skico and the Aspen Sales Directors Association.
“We’re going to examine what’s already out there, along with a variety of other pieces of data, like occupancy rates and sales tax revenues,” she said.
Since the group doesn’t expect to have a significant pool of revenue from the new tax until nine months or so have passed, the chamber is aiming to have a plan and budget in place early next fall. The first marketing efforts will coincide with the 2001-02 ski season, Nolan said.
Mayor Rachel Richards said she expects the city to approve an annual appropriation and the plan, but take a hands-off approach to the nuts and bolts of the marketing strategy.
“We’re not going to review every magazine they’re planning to put print ads in,” she said.
Part of the plan, said Nolan, will be targeted to boost business at Aspen’s small lodges. Many of them are struggling, and some owners of small lodges were among the most vocal opponents of the bed tax, claiming it would hurt them the most and help them the least.
“I’d like to believe that these dollars will benefit the small lodges especially – who can’t send people to trade shows, who don’t have large advertising budgets and don’t have a major Web site presence,” Nolan said.
“I think people are very cognizant of the need to see it raise the tide for all boats,” Richards agreed.
Nolan also wants the marketing strategy to produce some quantifiable results.
“A key part of the marketing plan has to be building in evaluation tools,” she said. “We need to make sure we can assess our successes down the road.
“We’re acutely aware that we need to see some results,” Nolan said.
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