Debbie Braun: Guest opinion
December 7, 2009
Yes ACRA is in a quandary, as described in an editorial in this paper last Friday. Had voters been given the opportunity to weigh in on the Local Marketing District on last month’s ballot, we believe the overwhelming positive support would have passed it unanimously.
The consequence of the error which kept it from the ballot is that vital funds earmarked for fueling Aspen’s marketing engine disappeared. Yet the real predicament is not limited to ACRA, it’s a collective sticky situation we must all tackle together.
Rebutting the largely myopic editorial, we believe three points here are of particular importance: 1) Marketing our resort is not a luxury, it’s imperative if we are going to weather this storm; 2) the benefactor of this fund allocation are our local businesses and residents, and ACRA is only a medium to execute a community-wide plan; and 3) marketing works, and waiting another year for marketing funds could prove much more costly than funding marketing efforts today.
The decision by the City of Aspen to fund additional dollars for tourism marketing now was a wise decision to invest in the future of Aspen’s economic vitality. The majority of our resort competitors have marketing budgets well above what Aspen currently has, and most are increasing their marketing budgets in response to our economic and travel environments, a strategy well proven to gain share during downturns. Taking a passive stance now and limiting our town’s capacity to be front of mind, therefore, is the true risk.
Moreover, characterizing the loan being considered by the city as a “gamble” conjures up images of bookies and back-alley deals. Consider that ACRA is an organization whose sole objective, and proven skill set, is crafting smart, strategic efforts to get explicit results. We exist to find the best ways to make a positive impact on our resort community.
It’s not a question of whether ACRA “needs the money.” ACRA merely acts as the mechanism to effectively invest these dollars for a multi-channeled plan to attract visitors to the resort. This includes an integrated strategy of advertising, public relations, website, printed materials and special events designed to attract tourists to come to Aspen and spend their dollars. In this competitive marketplace, travelers are shopping harder for deals and being more careful about where they spend any discretionary income. Without tourism marketing, travelers may choose somewhere else to spend the dollars.
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Finally, allocating funds for marketing benefits the entire community. ACRA works together with all our community partners – the city, the county, Aspen Skiing Company, Stay Aspen/Snowmass, the lodging community, restaurants, retailers and the arts and cultural community – to leverage the dollars and ensure a strong economic future for Aspen. Each of these partnerships helps guarantee the best use of the funds and immediate impact in the marketplace.
We don’t have the luxury of time for more contemplation and reflection. If our resort loses market share and becomes less competitive, the city, and many of the vital businesses that make up our local commerce, could have to contract further and lay off more staff.
The bottom line is that this allocation by the city is an investment to help our entire community forge its way through this economic conundrum.