I’m writing to offer a different opinion on the article in last week’s issue (see “TBIDness Deals,” February 10).
My opinion comes as a former Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board Member and as one of the longest-sitting members in MLT’s history. I was also one of the greatest supporters of the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) and have a strong understanding of its original intent… flying into Bishop is not what the business community signed up for.
Last week’s article started off with a quote from Mammoth COO Eric Clark, stating, “Commercial Air Service, we believe, belongs in Bishop.” This quote comes from the same organization pounding their fists on the table, insisting the airport belongs in Mammoth Lakes.
In fact, our Town is going to be paying nearly $50 million in debt over the next 20 years because we were so insistent the airport belonged in Mammoth Lakes.
One of the primary goals of the TBID was to drive long-term visitation to Mammoth Lakes. Since the creation of the TBID, funding to Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) has gone from approximately $2.5 million to roughly $7 Million. As MLT’s Executive Director [John Urdi] would brag, “We now have more marketing dollars than many states.”
My response is, where are the new long-term visitors? With all the new marketing dollars, we have not even surpassed peak winter visitations that existed prior to the formation of MLT or the TBID. Intrawest, a foreign company, did a better job at driving winter visitation… or should I say the snow does a better job at driving our winter visitations?
One would think that with all of these new-found marketing dollars, our planes would be filled with visitors, and winter tourism would have doubled or tripled to match our new funding.
This is not the case! Since the formation of TBID, our enplanements to Mammoth Lakes are down nearly 40 percent, while enplanements in competing resorts are up. Our shortcomings over air service are not solely due to weather; I argue they are primarily because of failed air marketing campaigns.
Given this situation, the business community is supposed to entrust Mammoth Lakes Tourism with more marketing dollars and a new plan to move visitors out of our town? No thanks! Prove you can fill the planes to Mammoth Lakes first! If you want to make Bishop a backup airport in the event of inclement weather, let’s do that, but making Bishop a primary airport after years of well thought out planning is just chasing the next shiny new lure. MLT should save its new shiny lures and fishing expeditions for “Fishmas”.
After MLT’s failed efforts to drive “long term visitations” to Mammoth Lakes, as was originally promised, and its consistent failure to fill 76-seat planes, is our community now to believe Mammoth Lakes needs to fly larger planes with larger subsidies into a city 40 minutes away?
If the threat is to take away TBID in the event MLT does not support air service to Bishop, then my suggestion to Town Council and the business community is that we call the threat and get rid of it.
Give the $5 million in TBID dollars back to the business community, and pass the savings back on to our guests.
After all, the past few years have proven that snow is what truly drives our winter visitations… not MLT or its failed air marketing efforts.