And oh what Hites We’ll Hit …
Strange as it sounds, there can be a benefit to lousy reporting.
First, Mammoth Mountain Vice-President Eric Clark’s excerpted remarks at Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Tourism board meeting:
“I wanted to comment on an article in the paper as it was related to the TBIDness. In that article, it gave a perception that Alterra/ Mammoth Mountain is only contributing to the shared TBID. In fact, that is not accurate in the sense that when you look at the entire business here in Mammoth. We also contributed through lodging, through food and beverage and through retail. I just want to make sure, especially this group understands those numbers. Looking back at it, the first year TBID was collected in 2013, Mammoth’s businesses contributed 53% of the total TBID. The second year Mammoth contributed 48% of the total. Next year, 2015-16 it was 53%. And then 2016-17 it was 54%. 17-18 was 53%. 18-19 was 50%. So far through this year it has been 50%. That is a total of $16 million, which is 52% of the TBID that was collected. I think it’s important and the reason I wanted to comment on it today is because as we progress into the renewal of the TBID, it was made perfectly clear that the IKON pass was a product that we were not able to collect from. But the whole premise of the IKON pass was to bring people from different destinations and help our businesses do better outside of just the weekends. And, we are certainly seeing that. That indeed the IKON pass is working for us and we are still contributing more than 50%.”
Reporter Zachary Hite’s response: “The irony of this is that being a bad journalist actually compelled Eric Clark to give us the data we sought. Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi and Town Finance Director Rob Patterson told me they can only provide data segmented by industry. The Sheet asked both Patterson and Urdi specifically if we could get data sorted by payer. This was unavailable. Using the ski industry in last week’s story as a proxy was the best option available. Apologies to Mr. Clark. In the future, I’ll simply call him directly.”
With that as a backdrop … I’ve never heard Mr. Clark advocate for a strategy/position quite as strongly as he advocated at the meeting Wednesday for the continuation in 2020-2021 of the Denver flight and increased marketing in the northeast.
To the point where he essentially dismissed MLT’s proposed near-term “reimagine” marketing strategy. “We don’t even need to market locally right now,” he said. Visit California dollars are all focused in-state.
So he believes this is the perfect opportunity to target the northeast.
And he is absolutely correct in his position that there’s no need to market locally right now. Our customers are clamoring at the gate. My wife is turning away 3-4 Airbnb requests on a daily basis.
Our issue this summer is not going to be visitation. There’ll be plenty of it. Our issue is going to be capacity. How do we handle summer crowds if the restaurants can only take half the customers, if the trolleys can only take half the passengers, if the Red’s Meadow shuttle is canceled, if there is no Whitmore pool, no summer camps …
But the last thing a marketing organization wants to see happen is the town fill up without being able to take full credit for it. So trust me, there will be a marketing campaign.
… So the way Urdi left it with Clark was: let’s not redirect money within the budget to accommodate your request. Let’s just throw more money into the budget – ostensibly from reserves.
But in a fairly stunning rebuke, board members McGuire (Urdi must be tickled pink McGuire is leaving the board. Too smart and asks too many questions), Duggan and Salcido rejected Urdi’s request that the Chamber of Commerce be funded out of reserves, which leads one to believe they won’t be keen on funding Clark’s proposals out of reserves either.
Point is, Urdi’s got too many fronts right now, and not enough munitions. No more $8 million war chest. Real choices required. Efficiency required.
And the most logical retreat and repositioning would be as follows.
Dump the uber-expensive Sacramento ad agency run by the buddy you attend World Series games with.
Create a true in-house marketing department, repurposing the local talent you have at your disposal (Maybe Clark is right. You don’t need to send Mike Vanderhurst to Pyeongchang when Philadelphia might do. And maybe in the Covid age you don’t send him at all, but his new territory becomes the good ol’ USA). Have Marketing Director Gebo negotiate the ad placements with Facebook and Google. Reach out to talented local designers and artists and filmmakers to create some content when appropriate.
You got the palpable sense on Wednesday that Urdi wishes to resume all his old tried-and-true strategies as soon as possible. And that the playbook will not change. Eras end, Mr. Urdi. Time to buckle up and channel your inner Bill Belichick.