Restart Destinations Success Story: Aspen Chamber Resort Association

The Aspen Chamber and Resort Association (ACRA) was approved to participate in the Restart Destinations Program by the Colorado Tourism Office in July 2021. Program objectives included: 

  • convene tourism stakeholders to align on priority actions that advance the forthcoming Aspen Destination Management Plan
  • identify opportunities to foster stronger relationships between visitors, residents, and tourism workforce
  • brainstorm strategies to launch a locally facing value of tourism campaign
  • explore ways to further encourage responsible and respectful user behavior
  • foster economic resilience in ways that maintain tourism’s contribution to quality of life in Aspen

Located within the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen is a mountain resort community that offers endless opportunities to access world-class outdoor recreation, skiing, luxury boutiques, and natural beauty. Under the brand promise of “Defy Ordinary,” Aspen provides a nearly unmatched outdoor setting for personal escapes that create lifelong memories.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) is a 501(c)(6) organization that serves as a hybrid chamber of commerce and destination marketing organization. ACRA’s destination marketing activities are funded by 75% of the 2% lodging tax that is collected within the City of Aspen.

ACRA was paired with Tina Valdecanas and David Holder, principals at Clarity of Place, a destination consulting firm with experience in destination marketing, organizational efficiency, and tourism development, to develop a recovery assessment and facilitate a full-day community visioning and action planning workshop.

ACRA also convened a core team of local tourism stakeholders to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. ACRA hosted three core team meetings to identify priority barriers and opportunities for advancing tourism, discuss the findings from the recovery assessment, and guide workshop design. 

Recovery Assessment and Workshop Results 

A unique aspect of the delivery of this program was that it occurred in tandem with ACRA’s work to develop a Destination Management Plan in collaboration with Destination Think. As a result, the work completed through the recovery assessment included reviewing the results of research that was conducted by Destination Think as well as engagement with ACRA, the core team, and Destination Think to agree upon a series of priorities to action plan through the Restart Destinations Program.

ACRA convened 16 tourism stakeholders on December 2, 2021 for a community visioning and action planning workshop to review the results of the recovery assessment and align on priority actions for driving near-term recovery and long-term resilience. Workshop participants represented a wide range of tourism stakeholders, including U.S. Forest Service, Pitkin County and City of Aspen government, Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Snowmass Tourism, the Aspen Skiing Company, the Aspen Institute, and private business that included banking, hospitality, and tourism marketing agencies. 

Workshop participants engaged in a small group activity to envision the future changes they would like to see result from implementation of the Aspen Destination Management Plan. A key outcome of these discussions was a collective agreement to further narrow focus of action planning on three of the initial five priorities that were identified through the recovery assessment: engage in 360-degree feedback with residents, expand visitor education, and enhance experiences for visitors and residents.

As a result of the workshop discussions, participants aligned on key priorities and action items to inform the development of a recovery action plan. Key priorities include:

  • address visitor pressure
  • preserve small town character
  • enhance the Aspen experience

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, ACRA was paired with Clarity of Place, a CRAFT Mentor with experience in destination marketing and management, and tourism advocacy, to deliver 75 hours of free consulting to conduct the activities listed below.

The purpose of this Restart Destinations Mentor project was to develop a research-based tool that assesses peak demand and guides decision making on destination marketing and management strategies.  

Project objectives included:

  • develop tools to better manage peak and off-peak tourism seasons 
  • better understand changes in demand on tourism-related businesses  throughout the year

ACRA achieved the following results through the Restart Destinations Mentor project:

  • peak demand assessment using the Capacity-Compression-Comfort (CAPCOM2) system to visualize actual and perceived visitor volume and impact on the community
    • presentation to facilitate community engagement and understanding of peak demand 
    • CAPCOM2 methodology to assist with ongoing additional updates by the ACRA team as new data inputs become available
CRAFT Recovery assistance for Tourism

About Restart Destinations Program

The Restart Destinations Program supports Colorado tourism destinations to drive faster recovery as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Awarded destinations receive a recovery assessment, a full-day recovery workshop, 75 hours of customized technical assistance, and $10,000 in direct marketing support from the Colorado Tourism Office. This program was made possible by a CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.