Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) held its biannual open house on Wednesday, May 27, spending the majority of the time recapping winter marketing efforts and revenues.
Executive Director John Urdi started off the presentation recapping Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) numbers. Despite the dismal winter, TOT is up 11 percent this year over last year and December was the second best on record, up almost 12 percent.
The five feet of snow in December carried January numbers, which were up 27 percent from last year and up one percent from budget— a “big deal” according to Urdi.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that last year’s TOT was down 12 percent from the year before, meaning while we might be up, we’re up from almost the bottom of the barrel. Meanwhile these numbers don’t account for constant dollar values or adjusted value of currency based on inflation.
Unsurprisingly, Urdi reported that February, March, and April were all down in TOT. A call to the Town Finance Department on Thursday revealed the preliminary April TOT number is down 35 percent from last year, coming in at $424,593, approximately $237,000 under last year.
From July 2014 to March of this year, TOT was 2.1 percent under budget but 11% ahead of last year. Urdi called this “a huge victory for us. As a community that is something we should hang our hat on,” he said.
“We’re still almost a million dollars ahead of where we were last year at this time. While we’re slightly behind on budget, almost a million dollars ahead is a testament to us being able to grow and been able to be more weather proof.”
TBID numbers are behind 20 percent overall year to date, although up 2 percent at restaurants. “I think because we didn’t have the conditions people were looking for on the mountain they were drinking more,” Urdi said with a chuckle.
Urdi capped off his presentation with an air service report—10 percent drop in passengers, reduction in available seats by 16 percent and a 7 percent cancellation rate—before turning the podium over to the marketing team to recap their winter efforts.
The “No Small Adventure” campaign in collaboration with San Diego based Advertising Agency MeringCarson launched last summer, featuring sketches of mystical creatures such as dragons and woolly mammoths superimposed on landscape and action shots of the Mammoth area. The campaign included video and interactive ads on a variety of websites such as ESPN, Yahoo, and Trip Advisor, Internet search marketing, and radio ads highlighting large snow falls—when they occurred.
Altogether, the winter ads cost MLT $408,000, with $220,000 on digital display ads, $83,000 on search marketing, and $105,000 on radio ads. MLT claimed the ad campaign generated 147,000 qualified visitors to Mammoth Lakes and was “very efficient,” according to Sarah Mettee of MeringCarson. “Our brand, the ‘No Small Adventure,’ is really resonating with the consumer,” she said.
Overall the campaign generated $133,368,982 of incremental revenue in Mammoth Lakes since July 1 of last year, according to Denise Miller of Strategic Marketing and Research Insights (SMARI). SMARI researches advertising campaign effectiveness around the country through online surveys, generating national benchmarks. The “No Small Adventure” campaign tested in the top 10 of all the advertising campaigns SMARI evaluates.
88,278 of the households surveyed said they took a trip to Mammoth because of the advertising, plus an additional 34,000 repeat trips. That’s a total of 122,691 household visits that “we can directly attribute to the advertising,” Miller said. On average, Miller said a household spends $1,087 per trip, which equals an economic impact of $133,368,982. That means the return on investment (ROI) for MLT’s media spend of $635,000 for the year is $210 per one dollar. In other words, for every dollar MLT spends in advertising, visitors spend $210 in town. SMARI’s national ROI benchmark is $58 and the California average is $153.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how well you did, especially when I knew how the winter had been,” Miller said. “We do a lot of this for other ski destinations… Colorado did okay, but Utah not so well.” Miller could not share data for specific resorts due to confidentiality clauses.
The advertising campaign also generated $3.6 million in taxes, according to Miller’s research.
After additional presentations by a variety of MLT staff covering social media, PR, and international marketing efforts, Mettee presented the planned marketing for the summer advertising campaign (an estimated $618,500) from May through July, featuring similar sketched mythical creatures, including a bear on a unicycle.