Marolt: Aspen is losing market share! Phew!
Aspen is losing market share. We heard this last week from a visiting expert. My response is, “I should hope so.”
Let me explain. The tourism industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of people who traveled by air between countries increased from about 800 million annually to almost 1.1 trillion. That’s an increase of over 35 percent. Last year the U.S. tourism industry grew at an annual rate of about 6 percent. Europe, Asia and the Pacific region, ditto.
Get it? The travel and leisure market is booming. To keep our slice of the expanding market in proportion, we need to add about 6 percent more hotel rooms, condos, timeshares, restaurants, shops, services and entertainment venues every year, compounded! Does anybody really think Aspen would be better if it got 50 percent larger over the next decade? Even if our town expanded preposterously at 5 percent every year, we would still lose market share. Good riddance, market share!
Oh, and the expert said we’re overpriced in the next breath. We need to lower airfares, add moderately priced hotels and restaurants and create overall better values in order to become a gigantic resort that is successfully maintaining market share. I get it now. We’ll all be better off making less money in a much bigger, more congested town.
Why do we listen to experts? I assume experts are the ones who convinced the City Council to allow 67-foot-high hotels right up tight to the mountain, too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the experts, maybe the same ones, actually get their way at Highlands Base Village, where, after the tall buildings next to the mountain were constructed, you can no longer see the mountain until you are practically on the ski lift? How’s that working out as an interesting place to shop, dine and stay?
Anyway, I believe, as they say, the talk of the town’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. It seems to me that a uniquely beautiful, tiny piece in an expanding market is the way to go if you can arrange it. We’ll need a smaller and smaller percentage of a growing industry to give us what has always made us happy. More demand, less supply, higher prices — all smiles.
We’re not PepsiCo. Our market strategy is not to make 2 cents on every can of soda we sell and make it up by selling billions of cans. I think the number of cans we have on our ski lifts at a hundred-and-some-odd bucks a day is working out pretty well so far.
Chasing market saturation is for the Las Vegases, Orlandos and Whistlers of the world. Let them run! And for all who believe that is a better way to go, I am certain they will make room for you. Everyone’s satisfaction is their mission.
When someone tells me that something terrible is going to happen — I think it was “terrible” that the expert who pointed out that we are losing market share used to describe Aspen’s future — my reaction is to imagine the worst-case scenario. It always makes me feel better. I highly recommend it as a coping strategy.
Ready to try? OK, here it goes. Worst-case scenario of Aspen continuing to lose ground in maintaining its market share: All tourists decide Aspen stinks, and they quit coming here tomorrow. The ones who are already here and have prepaid their hotel rooms and/or have no-change return airline-ticket restrictions stay until the end of the week, but then they are gone for good, too.
Now what? We all move to Vail and work there because they were good little piggies who built their eight-story hotels out of brick and steel, so they didn’t lose any market share when the fickle market wolf blew, and they are happy we are coming over to fill the abundant job openings they have created in their flaming-hot micro-economy. There. Feel better? I thought so.
The worst-case scenario actually has happened in Aspen, so we don’t even have to use our imaginations much. Rewind your mind to 1893. Boom! It’s an interesting word choice, but that was actually the silver crash you just heard. Disaster, right? Well, lots of people moved away right away, and it was hard for the few who stayed, but they all had good stories to tell about the Quiet Years. Fast-forward to today. Things didn’t turn out too badly! Just saying — perspective.
Roger Marolt believes Aspen’s best strategy for attracting visitors is to focus on making it an awesome place for its residents (not an original thought). Contact him at email@example.com.