There was a joint meeting between Mammoth’s Council and Mammoth Lakes Tourism on Wednesday to review “strategy” and “deliverables” for MLT in 2022-2023
Which amounted to MLT trying to say as little as possible, while Council feigned as much interest as possible.
Where the two boards intersect: They just can’t figure out why no one really cares/understands what MLT does/how it spends its time. Or what the Town does? Or which entity is responsible for what. As Mayor Lynda Salcido said plaintively, “I just wish they [the public] would read our community updates.”
Meanwhile, MLT is like that teenage boy huddled in darkness playing videogames in the downstairs rec room. He may not be doing anything constructive, but as long as he’s down there, we figure he’s not shoplifting or otherwise breaking the law.
The absence of bad being trumpeted as an advertisement of good.
And who knows? Maybe someday the kid’ll go pro.
At one point, MLT Executive Director John Urdi talked about how people come up to him in Vons and tell him to stop bringing people to town because we have too many visitors now and not enough staff to accommodate them.
“Occupancy is no longer a top priority,” said Urdi, because the hotels can’t turn over the rooms anyway. MLT Board member John Morris added that lodging companies have scaled back their businesses to better align with staffing capacity.
As Urdi said, MLT’s job has morphed into trying to coach people into behaving better while they’re here versus convincing them to come in the first place.
At the same time, he said TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District tax money) is estimated to come in at $6.4 million this year, and given that Council still hands MLT a portion of TOT (Transient Occupancy tax revenue), MLT’s budget will be well north of $9 million in 2022-2023.
$9 million to sort of market, but mostly to tell people to not cut the line at Vons, pick up after their dogs and behave with a modicum of civility.
What a gig!
Urdi also revealed that MLT’s top priority for this coming year will be to renew its cash cow, the TBID, for another ten years. It was initially created on a five year term and renewed for five years in 2018.
In conjunction, MLT also wants to ink a ten-year deal with the Town, ostensibly to guarantee its chunk of room tax.
The only marketing effort alluded to by Urdi was a plan for MLT to double its spend on the east coast and lure distant air travelers who’ll stay for longer visits.
It was noted that the average traveler by air spends 50% more time in Mammoth than the average drive visitor.
Councilman Bill Sauser, like Salcido, said “I don’t understand how to reach our locals.” The locals certainly weren’t in the audience. In fact, as soon as the agenda item concluded, more than half of the audience in Suite Z left. They were all MLT/Town employees.
Maybe the locals need a little more razzle dazzle. After all, Urdi said naming The Parcel, “The Parcel” is not marketing.
*Although. one could argue that naming the Washington football team the Washington Football Team on an interim basis was greeted with a lot more enthusiasm than Washington’s new nickname, the Commanders.
MLT’s draft budget and work plan will be discussed at its May 4 board meeting. Urdi said Council would be briefed soon thereafter. I thought it interesting his choice of words. He said he wished to “arm” Council with information. I can see it now. Talking points as to why a marketing organization where marketing is now an afterthought still needs to be funded at stratospheric levels.
Final thought: At one point in the meeting, Finance Director Rob Patterson referenced the previous MLT-Council workshop from January where it was agreed that there should be increased local community marketing focus. Why? As Sauser pointed out, while we keep talking about educating our visitors on things like dispersed camping, more often than not, it is working locals who cannot find housing that are doing the dispersed camping.
So how to reach them? While Urdi may suggest that MLTs social media channels are the be all and the end all, I don’t think locals camping in the middle of winter care about MLTs Instagram.
The Sheet, for all its faults, can at least keep them warm for a few seconds.
Maybe MLT should do some local community marketing in this paper.
And then hell could freeze over!
And from Crocetti’s desk …
A recent article in the April 11 issue of Barron’s Magazine detailed the growing concern around consumer goods theft, which has skyrocketed nationally within the last few years. Some retailers are calling it a “national crisis.”
This increase in theft has forced expensive investments from companies, including additional security and technology. It’s also further weakened employee-retentio, which has been staggeringly low to begin with in recent times.
Workers, many of whom only get paid minimum wage, are now expected to keep merchandise safe and are increasingly susceptible to being in dangerous situations. Increase in theft also poses the threat of increasing inflation, as it “pinches profit margins and puts upward pressure on prices of goods.”
*Editor’s aside: Lunch was informed this week that it is standard practice in Bishop for pepole to wander into Rite Aid or Vons (but mostly Rite Aid), go to the beer cooler, grab a case, and walk right out the door. The place is chronically understaffed, and the clerks want none of that conflict.
The dramatic increase in organized retail crime – i.e. where a group of two or more people conspire to steal and resell a large number of goods – has directly coincided with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though many social factors contributed to this correlation, one major factor was the switch to online buying; most of the people stealing large amounts of goods are doing so to then resell online in order to make a profit.
According to the Barron’s article, retailers now lose more than $700,000 to theft for every $1 billion in sales, which is up from losing just over $450,000 per billion in 2015. A survey involving 700 businesses found that 54% has an increase in shoplifting last year, and 23% reported that it happens daily. Twenty major companies, including Target, Home Depot and Rite Aid, signed a letter to House and Senate leaders in December of 2021, asking them to pass legislation that would require prospective sellers to provide more information to online marketplaces when selling goods.
This phenomenon also follows a long-standing trend of decreasing penalties for theft; since 2000, 39 states have raised their thresholds for what qualifies as a felony, and at least 3 dozen have thresholds of $1,000 or more. The National Retail Federation reports that nearly two-thirds of retailers have seen more theft in states where penalties have been downgraded. Theft of goods worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor in California.
Finally, a few odds and ends. We’ll save coverage of Inyo’s District 3 Supervisor candidate forum until next week.
But … I was particularly entertained by Todd Vogel’s discomfort at Monday’s forum when it came to what politicians have to do, which is brag about themselves.
In his introduction, Vogel mentioned that he was a business owner without mentioning the name of the business – Eastside Sports – which just happens to be one of Bishop’s longest standing and successful businesses.
And then I attended Dr. Allen Glazner’s talk about his second edition of “Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Eastern California” on Tuesday evening.
The biggest takeaway: Glazner has spent an inordinate amount of time in Death Valley. When he says that if he had one half day to spend in Death Valley, he’d spend it in Mosaic Canyon, that makes you sit up and jot a note to yourself.