Guest commentary: Working together to help Aspen thrive
To the Aspen community,
Our community has come together in many ways to support each other during this difficult time. Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA), together with Pitkin County, the city of Aspen, local community members and businesses, continue to educate locals and visitors on how to safely experience Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley during the pandemic. This united effort is reaching as many as possible in order to keep everyone in our community safe, while allowing our local economy to open.
ACRA has implemented a number of efforts to inform the community and educate visitors, including the following:
• ACRA COVID19 Resource and Visitor Guide on AspenChamber.org.
• Social media posts and ads geotargeting anyone in Aspen.
• ACRA videos: “How To experience Aspen in a COVID-19 World.”
• Ambassador street team walking the downtown core to educate on the mask ordinance, social distancing, and other safety measures.
• Visitor Center staff at the airport, Galena Street, and the ACRA office on Mill Street.
On the business side, there are countless efforts from numerous Aspen organizations to protect employees and customers. A few examples of what is being done to keep our community safe and businesses open include:
• Hotels and lodges include current Aspen/Pitkin County guidelines in their pre-arrival communications and educate guests of current protocols.
• Aspen Skiing Co. has created safety procedures to allow summer operations to function, and they are working diligently on all aspects of winter operations.
• Aspen retailers and restaurants have pivoted creatively and changed procedures to advise patrons about required mask-wearing, social distancing and expanded outdoor dining and shopping.
• The Aspen airport has incorporated social distancing signage, complimentary mask distribution, and local guideline signage to educate air travelers upon arrival.
• Arts and cultural organizations have creatively engaged audiences with superb virtual programming and new socially distanced events. For example, Theatre Aspen and Jazz Aspen Snowmass have created socially distanced events that meet Pitkin County’s guidelines while engaging audiences, while Aspen Film has worked on drive-in movies, and Anderson Ranch has an outdoor sculpture exhibit.
The city of Aspen and Pitkin County staff have been working tirelessly to keep the community safe, while allowing local businesses to operate. They have created guidelines, which have been continuously revised to reflect the ongoing challenges of the COVID virus. Communications and weekly meetings have helped keep the community informed and safe.
We have heard from some locals that Aspen feels busier than ever. Occupancy for June was down 62% compared with June 2019. July is forecast to be down 50% compared with July 2019. Refer to https://aspenchamber.org/about/data-center/occupancy-reports for lodging forecasts.
Aspen has historically seen many day-trippers during the summer and this year more people than ever are opting to take RV and summer road trips. The U.S. Forest Service introduced a new reservation system at the Maroon Bells this summer. Some day-trippers are unable to secure a last-minute reservation to the Maroon Bells and are opting to spend more time exploring local trails and the downtown core. In addition to short-term visitors and day-trippers, many part-time homeowners have decided to come for longer stays this summer.
We applaud our health care and essential workers, who have not wavered during this marathon. Pitkin County Public Health, Aspen Valley Hospital, law enforcement, city and county staff and elected officials and business leaders have all made hard decisions to keep our community safe while reopening the local economy.
Balancing opening the economy while staying safe cannot be done alone by one entity or person. This is a collective effort. We all hope this pandemic will end as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is crucial that we work together to stay safe and create an environment for Aspen to thrive. Thank you to all in the community for taking part in these efforts.
Debbie Braun is president and CEO of Aspen Chamber Resort Association.