In anticipation of a scheduled March 8 pitch from Mammoth Mountain Marketing VP Howard Pickett to Mono County’s Board of Supervisors on partnering for Horizon Air flight subsidies, on Feb. 15 the Mono Tourism Commission discussed alternative funding ideas that might be helpful in getting the Board … on board. A reported hike from the County’s subsidy of $45,000 last fall to $215,000 looks to be a non-starter even before it’s been formally verbalized.
Indications are that the Ski Area plans to take more of a back seat role, taking care of winter subsidies as needed, but shifting more responsibility for subsidizing spring and summer service to other partners, such as the Town, Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) and — potentially — Mono County.
MMSA, according to information provided to the Commission, is getting a minimum return on summer subsidies. But, getting the Supervisors to pitch in on even small subsidies could be a tough sell, given the state’s crisis-mode budget climate. “There’s a tremendous fear on the part of the Board vis a vis the state.” Commission Chair Jimmy Little pointed out.
Commissioner Danna Stroud suggested it would behoove MMSA and MLT to manage their expectations and come up with a number they can live with from the County other than $215,000. “The other partners need to determine what they can live with from Mono County, and say, ‘We’ll take it; let’s go,’” she said.
Participation could be leveraged against other avenues of return, such as airfare packages that can be used by lodging businesses to help generate Transient Occupancy Tax. And shoulder season numbers could see improvement with more marketing behind them this time around. Stroud and Economic Development Coordinator Alicia Vennos pointed out that even with minimal funding, and no substantial time for ad placement or marketing, that period last year still netted 43% flight loads.
During the Commission’s presentation on its accomplishments to the Board later that morning, when the subject of air service was broached, Board Chair Hap Hazard said the supervisors would like to see three things: first, “what we got for our $45,000 … an ad, a piece of collateral, something,” second, figures on T.O.T., which he said should be able to show some correlation, and third, details on how many cancelled flights there were during the County’s subsidy period.