Urdi reports summer success
We’ve heard it dropped in conversations at numerous meetings and associated presentations: “Best Summer Ever,” the Town’s catchy, if unofficial, slogan for getting the town back on fiscal track after a disappointing winter season resulting from a lack of snow.
On Wednesday night, Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director John Urdi gave his year-end presentation to Council, with data covering the period from July 2011 through this June. Last year started out great, with July through November Transient Occupancy Tax and related revenue up between 13% and 21% over 2010’s figures. Then came the winter, when the cold showed up, but the snow largely did not.
December, ironically, was up on average, but Urdi said that was mostly due to pre-bookings. January through April is when the bottom could be visibly seen falling out, with the Town taking a 27% TOT hit, that translated into a $1.5 million loss.
Thankfully, May and June arrived, and with it the idea of marketing Mammoth’s longer summer season as its “Best Summer Ever.” Those months saw an uptick of 18.5%, and a 28% boost to the 5-year average. Decent in the grand scheme of things, according to Urdi, those months pale in comparison to July, which at $970,000 has already beaten the previous TOT record for July of $832,000, and has the potential for hitting the $1 million mark when all figures are finalized.
Urdi attributed much to a stepped up email and social media campaign, with MLT’s Facebook audience up 70%. Also increased was outreach to foreign markets in Brazil, Germany, Russia and France, which began paying dividends this year. He touted marketing and tourism partnering and advertising deals with Yosemite National Park, NBC’s “Today” show, CBS’s “The Price Is Right,” Casio electronics, and California tourism spots featuring England’s Prince William and his wife, Kate.
Of course, having a pizza named after the town doesn’t hurt either, even if it features the questionable title of “Wham, Bam, Thank You Mammoth.” The pie was launched this summer in partnership with Bay Area and SoCal pizza chain Extreme Pizza.
Fishing promotions and several successful derbies were a main focus of MLT this year. The “Ambush at Convict Lake” derby is still going on through Nov. 15. Festivals, including two new events also proved to be well attended overall. Some of those French tourists came to Mammoth specifically to attend Bluesapalooza, for example, according to Mayor Matthew Lehman, who reported a 15% increase in Mud Run attendance this year.
Urdi thanked the Mono Board of Supervisors for supporting air service, and increasing their subsidy guarantee from $45,000 to $85,000 this season. Enplanements were up 17% in 2011 versus 2010, and the load factor was up 11% year over year, and Urdi indicated that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has suggested it’s “amenable” to working out some sort of seasonal overlap arrangement to establish a year-round Alaska Airlines flight schedule with no dark weeks.
Town businesses in general seem to be experiencing a 15-20% boost overall from last summer. Old New York Deli owner Michael Raimondo told The Sheet this August was the eatery’s best month in its entire decade-plus history.
Urdi is being challenged by recent budget cuts that left MLT with a net reduction of almost $120,000, though it remains to be seen whether the “Best Summer Ever” helps erase an earlier projected TOT shortfall that was forecast to have as much as a $500,000 negative impact to tourism marketing.
Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles said the town has also had potentially its Best Bear Summer Ever, noting that, while more than a dozen bears have been killed by cars in Yosemite, and more than two dozen have been reportedly shot and killed in Aspen, Colo., Mammoth has so far logged zero fatalities from vehicles and depredation.
Searles said four bears have had altercations with vehicles, but all the bears are okay. And of the town’s 350+ dumpsters, only two were found open on Thursday morning.
“It’s like ‘Jurassic Park’ out there, but Mammoth is killing it, in the best kind of way,” he said. “What kind of town does this? Our town … we built that. I’m so proud of this community.”
MLLA Settlement update
Deputy Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez briefed Council and the public on the tentative settlement agreement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA), which she said is still pending a final agreement, meaning details of the settlement are still confidential. “We hope to be before Council and the public by the next meeting on Sept. 19, but we can’t be absolutely sure of that at this point,” she added.