Aspen's Resident Sentiment Report on Tourism and Quality of Life - 2023

Avant Garde Aspen

Aspen, Colorado, often referred to as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a hub for tourists, has a unique blend of full-time and part-time residents who share their homes with the tourism industry. In this blog post, we delve into the results of a recent study conducted by Destination Analysts to understand the sentiments and opinions of Aspen's residents regarding tourism in their community. The study aimed to evaluate various aspects of their lives and their perspectives on the tourism industry's impact on Aspen.

Quality of Life in Aspen

The study found that nearly four in ten residents (39%) reported that their personal quality of life had improved compared to one year ago, while one-third (33%) believed it had remained unchanged. However, 28% felt that their quality of life had worsened. Interestingly, Aspen Natives, Millennials, and Part-Time Residents were more likely to report improved quality of life, while Gen X, Boomers, Aspen Transplants, and Non-Tourism Employees were more likely to report a decline.
When asked about their expectations for the future, 39% of respondents anticipated an improvement in their quality of life, while 38% expected it to remain the same, and 24% anticipated a decline. The majority of Aspen Natives, Millennials, Gen Z, Part-Time Residents, and Tourism Business Owners were optimistic about the future.

Community Sentiment

Aspen residents expressed a strong sense of pride in their community. Approximately 79% agreed that they can always find something to do in the Aspen area, and similar shares expressed happiness, stating that they are proud to live in Aspen (78%) and that they live in the best part of Colorado (76%).
However, agreement levels dipped when it came to political leadership and cultural diversity. While 60% generally agreed with Colorado's political leaders, only 51% believed that Aspen is culturally diverse. Nonetheless, the majority of residents had a positive perception of their city.

Access to Amenities

Residents found numerous positives in Aspen's offerings. They agreed that Aspen had easy access to outdoor and green spaces (83%), was safe (81%), had good public transportation access (80%), and provided ample sidewalks, bike lanes, and foot trails (78%). Nevertheless, agreement was lowest when it came to the affordability of living in Aspen and the availability of housing for all income levels (both at 34%).

Engagement in Local Activities

The study revealed that residents actively engage in various activities in Aspen. Skiing and snowboarding (59%) and hiking (58%) topped the list. Dining (56%), concerts (53%), and festivals/events (53%) were also popular. Resident Workers, Aspen Transplants, Gen X, Boomers, and High-Income Earners were more likely to participate in these activities.

Impact of Tourism

When assessing the impact of tourism, residents generally held a positive view. On a 100-point scale, overall sentiment stood at 46. They perceived tourism positively in terms of employment (58 pts) and economic impact (55 pts). However, community impact scored lower at 36 points, and personal impact rated at 38 points.
Over half of the respondents (58%) believed that tourism in Colorado had a positive impact on their quality of life. A similar percentage (57%) felt that Aspen's tourism industry improved their personal quality of life. However, a segment of Non-Tourism Employees (46%) and Gen Z (47%) disagreed with these statements.

Perceptions of Tourism Industry

The majority (64%) of respondents had a positive perception of Colorado's tourism industry, while only 13% had negative perceptions. Aspen Natives and High-Income Earners had the highest positive perception levels. For Aspen's tourism industry, 61% held positive perceptions, with 13% holding negative views. Aspen Natives, Part-Time Residents, and High-Income Earners were the most likely to have positive perceptions.

Tourism's Impact on the Community

Residents recognized that tourism played a vital role in supporting festivals, arts and culture experiences, and sporting events (73%). Simultaneously, they acknowledged that tourism brought crowds and traffic to Aspen (73%) and contributed to higher housing prices (68%). A majority also believed that tourism created new dining, entertainment, and shopping amenities in Aspen (66%).
The perceptions of Boomers differed significantly from other segments. They were more likely to see tourism as a cause of traffic and higher housing prices in Aspen, but less likely to think tourists treated the community with respect.
The study paints a complex picture of how Aspen's residents perceive tourism in their community. While many aspects of tourism are celebrated, such as the economic benefits and access to recreational activities, challenges like housing affordability and overcrowding also weigh on the minds of Aspen's residents.
Understanding these opinions is crucial for policymakers, community leaders, and businesses as they strive to strike a balance between catering to tourists and ensuring a high quality of life for Aspen's residents. As the tourism industry continues to evolve, keeping the voices of residents in mind is essential for sustaining the unique charm of this picturesque Colorado town.

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