The Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) is planning to spend more money next year than it has in the past on travel expenses and bringing trade groups to Aspen.
ACRA’s destination marketing staff has a $1.77 million budget for 2013, which is funded by 1.5 percent of a 2 percent lodging tax.
The biggest difference in the 2013 budget compared to this year is the amount given to certain community partnerships, which is rising from $100,000 this year to $250,000. The jump is due to a $150,000 donation to Aspen Skiing Co. for the 2013 Winter X Games. The rest encompasses a $75,000 payment to American Airlines, which recently began flying to Aspen, and a $25,000 placeholder for next year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which hasn’t announced its host cities yet but may return here.
Other budget items on the rise include staff salaries, traveling expenses and money spent on bringing in familiarization groups, known as “FAMs,” to Aspen. FAMs are low-cost trips offered to travel agents so that they familiarize themselves with their destination.
The total amount spent on salaries increased about 4 percent from $265,000 to $275,000. The destination marketing staff is made up of one-part time and four full-time employees. Money budgeted to cover traveling costs and expenses for staff going to marketing events also went up $2,250 due to the rising price of airline tickets and hotels rooms and the increase in the amount of traveling required by staff, said Julia Theisen, ACRA’s vice president of sales and marketing.
The amount of money spent paying staff to attend trade shows and bringing in FAMs more than doubled in this year’s budget, increasing from $27,000 to $60,000. That’s because those efforts have been sorely underfunded in the past and those efforts are effective in bringing in large groups of people to the area, Theisen said.
“The trade shows give us an opportunity to represent Aspen at important industry events around the country,” Theisen said. “And the FAM trips allow us to bring in qualified meeting planners who may be looking to book Aspen. We would like to do more of those trips, because we’ve seen that when we do bring people here it’s much easier to convert them than when we are in [the] market talking about Aspen.”
There is also an increase in the public relations budget from $165,000 to $180,000 due to an ongoing campaign to attract international tourists, Theisen said.
Meanwhile, the amount of money for special events has been cut by 43 percent going from $70,000 to $40,000. That cut represents ACRA’s reduced funding to the summer Outside in Aspen event. ACRA had been supporting the event in its first three years, but staff would like to see it partner with more sponsors, Theisen said. Event organizers were aware the cut was coming, she said.
“The goal wasn’t to fund it indefinitely,” Theisen said.
Other special events funded by ACRA include the 12 Days of Aspen holiday events and the Winterskol celebration in January.