Chamber of commerce officials are going back to the resident, business, and visitor communities for more feedback on how to manage tourism while protecting quality of life and environmental issues after launching a destination management plan earlier this year.
Surveys to those three demographics is a check-in of sorts after the Aspen Chamber Resort Association launched its destination management plan this past March.
It was the culmination of seven months of work involving 1,300 resident surveys, town halls, workshops, interviews with community leaders, and research done by consultant Destination Think.
Limiting the promotion of offseasons, particularly in the spring, is one of many actions in the destination management plan, which identified three “pillars” that have strategies attached to them.
Those pillars are addressing visitor pressure, enhancing the Aspen experience, and preserving small-town character.
The destination management plan is a dynamic process, designed with several opportunities for public engagement, and 360-degree feedback is a crucial component of the evolving plan to support the three main pillars, according to Eliza Voss, ACRA vice president of destination marketing.
ACRA is inviting residents, business owners, managers, and employees at every level, as well as visitors and others in the Aspen community, to participate in the surveys.
“In order to gauge the effectiveness of the Aspen Destination Management Plan, as well as measure our progress and identify areas for opportunity, we are deploying periodic surveys to several different audiences and appreciate your participation and feedback in this important part of community engagement,” Voss said.
ACRA will be surveying the Aspen business community every month for six months, while visitors and residents will be surveyed in two waves collecting a full year of data.
The first round of business stakeholder surveys already has been completed, and now, ACRA, through its contractor, Destination Analysts, is asking residents and visitors their thoughts.
Surveys were conducted in 2021, and this second round will compare previous results and examine if there are any shifts in dynamics or people’s thoughts about tourism in Aspen.
“For us, it’s important to use data rather than opinion,” Voss said.
The resident survey asks a gamut of questions, everything from: if people’s quality of life has changed since last year; whether respondents are happy living here and are proud to say they live in Aspen; to how tourism affects them, including their perceptions on how tourists treat employees and the environment.
In response to the results of the surveys conducted in 2021, in which respondents said they wanted their offseasons back, ACRA backed off marketing six weeks this past spring after the lifts stopped spinning, a time dubbed “The Secret Season.”
“We went quiet for that secret season,” Voss said, adding that ACRA has partnered with Aspen Skiing Co. to market the beginning of winter to advance the season earlier.
Typically, the ski season doesn’t start in earnest until the week before Christmas, and the month prior to that is quiet — even though the mountains are open, and service industry staff are employed.
“We are marketing Thanksgiving to Christmas because the infrastructure is already here,” Voss said. “We have never gone after this time period.”
She said ACRA has received feedback from the business community since the destination plan was launched that they want both spring and fall offseasons to be marketed and to feel supported in their year-round operations.
“This is a familiar conversation for this community, and we are trying to find that balance,” Voss said. “At the end of the day, the goal of the destination marketing plan is what serves the community the best.”
The resident survey is for Aspen and valley residents and can be filled out on this link: https://survey.vovici.com/se/209A5BC440CE174F. The survey will be open until Dec. 16. The second survey will occur this spring.
Visitors can complete their survey on this link, https://survey.vovici.com/se/209A5BC4604BCAD4, which will be open until Dec. 9. The second wave of surveys will be conducted in May.
ACRA is asking members of the Aspen business community — including business owners, managers, and employees — to fill out this survey, found at https://survey.vovici.com/se/209A5BC419B5A04C. They ask that it get passed along to their staff and colleagues. This survey will be conducted for the first two weeks of each month for six months.
Aspen businesses may obtain data results custom to their organization. If interested, they can contact Jessica Hite, marketing director at ACRA at [email protected]. She will send a unique link to the survey for a business to share with visitors.
Survey results will be used to continue to guide the destination management plan, which is aimed at creating a more sustainable tourism landscape in Aspen — with the goal of protecting the quality of life for residents, while also preserving the very reason people enjoy visiting the Aspen area.
Voss said ACRA and Destination Analysts will break down the results of the surveys, and an executive summary will be completed in early 2023.
“We will execute programming based on feedback,” she said.