Aspen Resort Effort Tries to Stop Downward Slope in First-Time Tourists

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The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will launch a direct mail and print campaign next month to stimulate tourism by first-time visitors to the area.


"Aspen has a high rate of repeat visitors, nearly 75 percent," said Will Seccombe, vice president of advertising at Praco Public Relations and Advertising, Colorado Springs, CO, the agency handling the campaign for the ACRA. "The goal of the campaign was to develop some new blood and bring in new people to the area to vacation."


The print and direct mail efforts are part of a yearlong campaign aimed at getting first-time visitors to experience the "Aspen Effect." It is the ACRA's first campaign; the Aspen Ski Co. has run past campaigns promoting the area.


The effort has a highly targeted audience: people ages 24 to 44 -- with ages 25 to 34 the primary focus -- in the Dallas and Los Angeles areas with household incomes of $125,000 or higher, single and married, with or without children.


"Those two areas represent two of the strongest tourism markets to the state of Colorado," Seccombe said.


Next month's mailing will consist of one drop of 135,000 oversized postcards. A direct mail effort over the winter -- also to people in the Los Angeles and Dallas areas -- consisted of two drops of a standard-sized postcard -- each to 100,000 people.


"We felt the first mailings could have had more of an impact, so this time we made them quite a bit larger and provided more information about what they get when responding to the call to action," he said. "And we decided to sacrifice the frequency of mailings for an increase in impact and in the number of people we will reach."


Print advertisements will run in the May issues of magazines including the Dallas and Los Angeles editions of Food & Wine, InStyle, Travel & Leisure, Vanity Fair and in the Beverly Hills editions of Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Time and U.S. News & World Report. A removable Post-it note is attached to each ad, inviting visitors to check out Aspeneffect.com or call a toll-free number in order to book a customizable vacation package.


The direct mail and print efforts are designed to drive potential vacationers back to a Web site, www.aspeneffect.com, or to call a toll-free number where they will be able to plan a customized vacation.


Seccombe said since the call to action was the same on both, ACRA did not track whether people came to the site via the mail piece or the print ad. But he said when the first campaign ran in the winter the site got 4,500 unique visitors during the month-and-a-half that it ran.


The campaign has a strong call to action and direct message rather than a branding focus, Seccombe said, to address the misconceptions people have about Aspen.


"We had the added challenge with this campaign of trying to get people to forget the misconceptions they have about Aspen, such as it being very expensive and hard to get to," he said. "We had to speak to them very directly and clearly explain what Aspen has to offer them on an emotional level."


The campaign has a skiing element to it, but Seccombe said research prior to the launch of the winter part of the campaign earlier this year showed it was not necessarily the activities that people enjoyed most about their vacations.


"When people were describing what they most liked about their trips," he said, "it was not so much the activities but how they felt while they were doing them. This is why we are focusing heavily on the emotional benefits of vacationing in Aspen."


The yearlong effort has a budget of $500,000. Seccombe said that nearly 70 percent of it was used for the direct mail and print efforts.


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