May 26, 2012

SandBoxBlogs: Aspen Daily News "Can high-priced Aspen support a low-priced lodge?"

Curtis Wackerle:
"With average hotel prices spiking 40 percent between 2003 and 2007, a recently released city of Aspen lodging study opens a window on the question of government’s role in encouraging less expensive options.

“Think of it as an existing conditions report,” said city long-range planner Jessica Garrow.

The 29-page study was based on conversations with a majority of lodge operators in Aspen, who were asked to provide their number of rooms, as well as average room sizes. The report also includes interviews with 13 operators from all sectors of Aspen’s lodging inventory. Planners are working on a second phase of the report that delves more deeply into the question of what more, if anything, the city government should do to impact the local lodging market.

Trying to beef up the lower end of the market to help attract the next generation to Aspen is a goal outlined in the latest edition of the Aspen Area Community Plan, adopted this year. City Council made studying the feasibility of such a concept a top-10 goal last summer.

With the city owning numerous properties around town, some have suggested that donating or selling the land at a reduce price to an affordable lodging developer, or providing zoning bonuses to those who do it on their own property, could be a way to make a project happen.

The report includes a history of lodging development and government policy in town from the 1960s through the last decade. It summarizes the types of lodging available in Aspen today, community desires for the bed base expressed through the Aspen Area Community Plan process and the perceived feasibility of further government action to encourage lower-priced options in the increasingly high-priced zip code.

“City government has played a wide variety of roles in Aspen’s lodging inventory over the years, ranging from the philosopher-sociologist to the market economist —and at times, financial supporter,” reads the report, produced by Garrow and city consulting planner Ben Gagnon.

Aspen lost some 27 percent of its total bed base inventory between 1994 and 2007, according to the 2008 “State of the Aspen Area” study, with a majority of the loss in the economy sector. Even with the decline in pillows, lodging tax revenues jumped 49 percent, reflecting a 40 percent increase in pricing. Second homes also are now playing a larger role in tourism accommodations...."  (Read more?  Click title)

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