Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Council Hold Joint Meeting, Talk Funding

Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Council Hold Joint Meeting, Talk Funding for Year-round Marketing Program and Strategy 

Councilmember John Wentworth started off last Wednesday’s joint meeting explaining the goal of the Town Council working more closely with Mammoth Lakes Tourism is to assure both would be successful.

By the end of the session, it was unclear how the two entities would work together but crystal clear that MLT has been successful in drawing tourists to the town.

Wentworth’s question was what kind of world Mammoth would be going into this year and next. MLT Chair John Morris’ assumption was a world that will look very much like it looked two years ago—pre-COVID. Mammoth Mountain’s Eric Clark and Mammoth Fire Protection District Commissioner John Mendel both agreed.

It didn’t take long for the discussion to pivot to housing. A tourism economy is dependent on its work force but in the case of Mammoth, that same economy has created housing costs beyond the income of most of its workforce. And, it’s getting worse as the price of condos in the town has sky-rocketed since COVID.

Nearly 20 years ago, the running joke in Mammoth was “Bishop is Mammoth’s affordable housing.” At the same time, the running joke in Bishop was “Big Pine’s Bishop’s affordable housing.” The reality: Both Mono and Inyo counties have an affordable housing issue.

Mammoth Lakes Tourism marketing has been very successful this past year despite COVID-19

MLT’s year-round marketing program is working. Now, the quest is for smarter tourism and higher prices—fewer guests but higher revenues. But, one unintended consequence would be more second homes going to short term rentals. According to figures thrown out by Mendel, only one-third of Californians can afford to own a home. “We can’t solve this,” he said. “We can’t tell people what to do with their homes. We can’t fix the cost of housing.” One thing that would help is a 12-month economy, he added.

One thing the Town could do, according to Councilmember Sarah Rea, was for the Town to buy condo units and incorporate those units into an inventory of affordable workforce housing. John Urdi, MLT director, anticipated the Transient Occupancy Tax would bring in $4 million over the organization’s current budget. His recommendation for the next four years: Use those funds to solve issues created by tourists—housing, trash and parking.

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