For each strategic objective, a series of actions have been defined to help ACRA in its destination management efforts.
Destination Management Plan Actions
Utilize a platform for community engagement.
- An example of a platform that has been used successfully for civic engagement and community decision making is CitizenLab. It is a community engagement platform, allowing governments to engage residents, manage input, and make decisions.
- An engagement platform can be a mechanism for residents to regularly share their concerns and crowdsource solutions.
- It can also serve as a community education dashboard to keep residents informed on ACRA’s current and future actions.
Whether through an engagement platform or other communication strategies, there is a need to improve resident awareness of ACRA's role/successes and the value of tourism to Aspen.
Potential focus areas for engagement include strategizing with residents regarding visitor pressure, crowdsourcing solutions to preserve the small-town character, and understanding priorities for sustainability initiatives.
Utilize existing communications with member businesses to communicate locally what ACRA is already doing.
It will be important to engage different subsegments of residents, including permanent residents and temporary residents or second-home property owners.
It is important for visitors and second-home property owners to be aware of the sensitivities of the community. Teach them to admire the way you respect each other and nature. Promote “The Aspen Way”, “Mountain Ethos”, and the “mind, body, spirit” mentality of experiencing Aspen to potential visitors in a campaign that reveals the DNA of Aspen. This will set clear expectations of visitor behavior.
Revisit and expand on the Aspen visitor pledge. Make the pledge more visible and accessible with actions such as:
- Road signs before entering the city containing the same messaging and referring to the pledge.
- Combine a campaign with Aspenites (and/or visitors) that have already taken the pledge.
- Continuously expand and promote the how to Aspen content.
- Push notifications when entering the airport.
- Visual presence in the streets via posters, billboards, et cetera.
- Relaunch the pledge with a bang. Create a social media campaign that has viral potential and engage the press.
- Consider incorporating an incentive or reward system for those who sign
Promote arts and culture even more. History, heritage, and cultural events distinguish Aspen from neighboring locations and is a source of pride for residents.
Communicate what it means to contribute to the community and preserve its small-town character.
Showcase internal and external sustainability initiatives to demonstrate that ACRA is modeling ideal visitor behavior.
Advocate for free bus service from Aspen to Glenwood.
Encourage visiting Aspen without a car and develop an education campaign showing that Aspen is small and very walkable and accessible to other low-impact forms of transportation.
Start the process of turning Aspen into a walking and cycling city such as Seville, Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, et cetera.
Address the impacts of other tourism economies on Aspen, for example, the visitor pressure from Snowmass.
Promote safe driving and encourage both locals and visitors to drive slower.
Make bridges into a toll bridge (for example, Maroon Creek Bridge) to discourage too much traffic. The toll could be free for residents.
Consider advocating for a direct shuttle between the airport and downtown.
Establish sustainability goals for Aspen’s visitor economy.
- Use the GSTC Destination Criteria as guidelines for establishing relevant indicators and setting ambitions.
- GSTC Criteria are informed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and have been tailored for the tourism sector.
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies could be a helpful partner to identify focus areas and amplify advocacy efforts.
- Build on the great work ACRA is already doing regarding the Comprehensive Recreation Management for Aspen and the surrounding area.
- Consider executing a carrying capacity study to identify areas in addition to Maroon Bells that would benefit from visitor quotas, reservation systems, and/or dynamic pricing (e.g., increased fees during high-use periods).
The Aspen Indigenous Foundation is also a potential partner to enhance sustainability efforts. It is vital to respect and learn from Indigenous principles and practices.
- One of the organization’s key strengths is community education by sharing Indigenous wisdom.
Advocate for the preservation of land outside of the urban growth boundary.
Work with stakeholders to raise funds that support the preservation and regeneration of the natural environment. This could include:
- Introducing an eco-fee on tourism-related purchases such as restaurants, tourism operators, events, et cetera.
- Holding an annual sustainable event to raise awareness and funds for a specific ecosystem or species under threat.
- Introduce a fee on large groups that visit during busy periods.
Track progress and measure the sustainability of the destination.
- GreenStep is one service provider that provides destinations with sustainability assessments and certification.
In the tourism sector globally, roughly 75% of emissions can be attributed
to transportation. Air and road emissions will be the largest contributors to transportation emissions in Aspen.
- ACRA can use this information as a proxy to focus climate action on transportation-related emissions.
- Work with visitor economy stakeholders to provide incentives (discounts, access, preferential treatment) for more people to use public transportation and EVs.
- Advocate for a quota on private jet arrivals, introduce a private jet tax, and/or a plan to reduce airport emissions through a commitment to sustainable forms of aviation.
- Some current and future forms of sustainable aviation include bio-fuels, green hydrogen, and battery-powered aircraft.
Leverage ACRA’s strength in communication to execute educational initiatives.
- Bring awareness to the visitor economy’s impact on climate change and visitors’ responsibility to be part of the solution.
- This could include supporting the partnership between Aspen Skiing Company and Protect Our Winters (POW), or finding new partnerships with climate action organizations to find innovative ways to raise awareness and encourage action.
Establish climate action goals.
- Aligning with the Paris Agreement targets should be a minimum threshold to achieve. Ideally, stronger targets will be established to show leadership.
Limit actions to promote the off season. Many residents indicated that seasonal dispersal is not the path they want to pursue.
Co-create a campaign with residents with the objective of preserving the soul of Aspen. Determining how to preserve the soul of Aspen will enhance both the visitor and resident experience.
Work with operators to develop tourism experiences to engage visitors on a deeper level, limiting mass tourism offerings and emphasizing the development of transformational niche experiences.
Improve and rethink wayfinding, particularly in directing visitors to low-impact experiences.
Maintain some backstage experiences for residents. Decide which experiences should be reserved for residents with community input.
Better support small local businesses. One way to accomplish this is to set up a cross-selling program where businesses are incentivized to refer customers to other local businesses.
Stop advertising to your direct-fly markets. Aspen is a very established brand, and people will not stay away because they do not see the ads anymore.
Stop advertising to the luxury market for now since these individuals will visit anyways.
Pursue passion- and value-based targeting instead of geography and demographics. Invest in netnographic research (“passionography”).
Make sure diverse audiences see themselves in promotional and educational material.
Continue efforts for multilingual communications (particularly Spanish).
Increase efforts to be a cultural tourism concierge since this is an important aspect of Aspen’s DNA and the type of visitor that aligns well with Aspenites’ values.
Engage with the Aspen Indigenous Foundation to support their initiatives, develop cultural experiences, and attract passion-aligned visitors.
Catalog and promote experiences that have low impact and ideally positive social benefits, such as biophilia-based activities.
Increase the highlighting of sustainable restaurants (plant-based and locally sourced ingredients), for example, in recommended itineraries.
Feature public transportation and other forms of low-impact transportation as the primary way to get around. Feature offsetting options through The Good Traveler when air transportation is mentioned.
Continue to encourage voluntourism activities such as tree planting, clean-ups, or other activities that have restorative and regenerative effects.
Signal to operators that more attention will be focused on sustainable experiences and operations so that they are incentivized to reshape their offerings.
Expand eco-friendly signage and markings on maps so that visitors are more likely to participate in sustainable offerings.
Encourage Chamber members to improve sustainable sourcing practices.
Encourage the respect of Indigenous principles and promote Indigenous experiences more.
Work with government and industry stakeholders to develop a plan to phase out single-use plastics.
Ensure that an expanded definition of visitor economy-related businesses understand how integral they are to the tourism industry and feel the benefits
of tourism. This initiative is about bringing stakeholders together and building relationships.
Look at opportunities/experiences regionally that could have lower impact, such as hiking between towns.
Engage residents to assist in defining the types of tourism experiences/businesses they want in the destination. This can be accomplished through 360-degree feedback initiatives.
The DMO can suggest and advocate for evolving job opportunities in tourism that residents benefit from:
- Free tours: leverage the freetour movement and engage local tour guides.
- Farm-to-table concepts: support local food producers and restaurants.
- Niche travel: target aligned travelers who have a positive impact on locals.
- Travel with subject experts: local experts will be needed, from birdwatchers to uphill skiers.
- Immersive tourism: create possibilities for people that want to stay longer.
By actively promoting Aspen’s “mind, body, spirit” mentality, perhaps ACRA can encourage all residents to give back.
Advocate for a tax on short-term rental properties where the funds are allocated towards affordable housing initiatives.
Support or advocate for a short-term accommodation study that supports the ongoing discussion with reliable data.
Advocate for the development of additional affordable housing and affordable housing ratios.
Establish a seat at the table for initiatives that are addressing the housing crisis so that the challenge is seen through a visitor economy lens, Chamber members have a voice representing them, and tourism can play a role in the solutions.
Develop a communication strategy that demonstrates how the tourism industry is participating in housing crisis solutions.
Create an ambassador program. Provide incentives to locals to engage with the visitor economy and communicate the value in tourism.
- Set up Aspen Greeters to make visitors feel like guests and make them understand the community (such as the “Big Apple Greeters” program).
- Develop an “Aspenites buddies” platform that could be a digital extension of the Aspen Greeters program. This is a mechanism through which Aspenites can communicate with tourists, second-home property owners, visiting friends and relatives, and business people who visit the region. Locals could use the platform to recommend must-see events and places.
- Co-create the ambassador and buddy program with residents.
Encourage local industry associations to bring their events to Aspen (e.g., law conferences, et cetera)
Engage with local environmental groups and organize an end-of-season clean-up day. Turn this into an event that goes viral.
Encourage visitors to participate in voluntourism and other activities with a positive environmental and community impact.
Encourage community members through engagement and education to provide better quality customer experiences.
Actions with impact are actions that express the DNA of your community and are co-created and/or executed with your residents. Actions with impact are emblematic of your strategy. They are components of the regional story and also the means of telling that story. They give substance to the messages designed for visitors and residents. Actions with Impact have intrinsic communicative power and can take the form of innovation, legislation, an attribute that residents share, or a coordinated act that expresses the region’s Place DNA. Effective actions with impact are suggestive, remarkable, memorable, picturesque, newsworthy, topical, and/or poetic.
Aspen needs to choose a purpose-based action that expresses the identity of the region. This type of action has multiple objectives:
• Educate and demonstrate your values.
• Boost civic pride and reinforce Aspenites’ love for their home.
• A group hug during a challenging time when people are still facing the impacts of COVID-19.
Stakeholders mentioned during the engagement process that they appreciated previous campaigns that had intrinsic symbolic value such as “Faces of Aspen”, “Heroes”, and “Relax, it’s Aspen”. You could even turn The Aspen Pledge into a more visible and celebrated action with impact.