New marketing plan for Aspen will roll back to shoulder seasons

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association plans to forego tourism promotion during shoulder seasons as part of a broader effort to manage crowds and improve residents’ quality of life.

It’s just one strategy in the recent ACRA publication Aspen Destination Management Planwhich took seven months and involved 1,300 resident surveys, town hall meetings, workshops, interviews with community leaders and research by consultant Destination Think.

One of the big lessons from raising awareness is that locals want their off-seasons to come back.

For several years, ACRA has aggressively marketed Aspen spring and fall tourism and it’s clear the agency’s efforts have resulted in too much pressure on the resort community, Eliza said. Voss, ACRA’s vice president of destination marketing.

“It’s a pretty big change in how ACRA would do marketing,” she said last week. “Part of that is we need to get back into the community because we’ve heard loud and clear that we need to protect shoulder seasons, but what does that really mean to people?”

Voss added that ACRA will no longer actively do acquisition marketing for September and October.

“That’s not what the community wants or needs right now,” she said. “Ultimately, if residents are happy, the visitor experience will be enhanced, so we’re trying to find that balance.”

That won’t stop for-profits and lodges from marketing Aspen, but ACRA will focus on educating tourists about community values.

The continuation of the marketing of the spring months has not been determined.

“We need to reconnect with the community and define what we want our shoulder season to look like,” Voss said.

The ACRA needs to determine if the benefits of filling off-seasons outweigh the negative impacts. Those interviewed who have an interest in the community expressed that there is a limited period for businesses and residents to rejuvenate between seasons. A lack of downtime can upset the balance between visitors and residents, the plan notes.

Limiting the promotion of off-seasons is one of the many actions of the destination’s management plan, which has identified three “pillars” to which strategies are associated.

These pillars address visitor pressure, enhance the Aspen experience, and preserve the character of a small town.

The destination plan responds to the growing sense among locals that there are too many people flocking to Aspen and that not all appreciate or respect the way of life here, which is to tread lightly on the environment and to treat each other with respect.

The plan aims to protect residents’ quality of life and preserve the very reason people love to come to Aspen.

“Based on the results, we defined the ‘Aspen Challenge’ as follows: Aspen is a location that has become so popular that the ideal ‘win-win’ situation is currently not possible,” reads the summary of the destination management plan. “As a result, ACRA needs to think about how Aspen can survive its reputation (disgruntled residents pose huge business risks), socially (gentrification and seasonal impacts), environmentally (visitor pressure) and even existentially (lose its soul)…if Aspen chooses to maintain the status quo, it will not only negatively impact residents’ quality of life, but will also begin to limit investment opportunities for the local economy.

ACRA will assume a leadership, advocacy or partner role on issues such as improving visitor education, catalyzing sustainable choices and diversifying visitor markets.

The plan suggests ACRA stop advertising to lead flight and luxury markets and pursue targeting based on passion and value rather than geography and demographics.

One of the conclusions of the plan concerns the mentality of newcomers to the community.

“There are also residents who are not fully participating in the Aspen community,” the plan says. “By actively promoting Aspen’s ‘mind, body, and spirit’ mentality and actively inviting new residents and vacation home owners to community events, ACRA can perhaps encourage residents to become more integrated into the community and to return some of the value they derive from Aspen. ”

Voss said it could take the form of an ambassador program with locals guiding new residents.

“Maybe ACRA has the opportunity to partner with the city to welcome new residents,” she said. “So instead of everyone getting frustrated that the merger isn’t happening naturally, can we provide opportunities with the Aspen Historical Society to do Aspen 101 history and kind of a welcome wagon ?”

ACRA is also working to translate the plan’s strategies into a framework that will encapsulate its “Defy Ordinary” brand promise and reflect a sense that residents have been heard, and the agency is taking meaningful action to address their concerns. .

To deal with visitor pressure, ACRA could advocate a free bus service from Aspen to Glenwood and a direct shuttle between the airport and downtown.

The plan even suggests that visitors pay a toll on the Maroon Creek Bridge to discourage too much traffic.

By preserving small town character and advocating for solutions to the housing crisis, ACRA could support a tax on short-term rental properties that will fund affordable housing initiatives and also push for a study on short-term housing. term with reliable data.

The plan, which cost $123,780, was paid for by ACRA’s destination marketing department. It is under contract with the City of Aspen to provide destination management services.

The plan will be presented to the Aspen City Council on Tuesday in a business session beginning at 4 p.m. in the New Council Chambers at City Hall on Galena Plaza.

“I hope people will read the plan and be optimistic and inspired,” Voss said.

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