As the Mammoth Town Council got ready for more talk on use of utility users’ tax money for an air service subsidy, we talked to Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory about the issue. He said that Alaska Air made it clear if there were not a fall subsidy, they would cancel all service for the year. Gregory said, “We let the Town Council know, and that’s what led to the discussion.”
Gregory explained that Mammoth Mountain pays for the entire winter air service subsidy. The winter air service guarantee will cost $3.5 million for the next season. Gregory said the Mountain will handle that but needs participation to pay for summer and fall guarantees. The CEO said, “That’s the time Mammoth Mountain gets significantly less value. It’s important that the Town is behind us on this.”
Asked if the Town’s bankruptcy were a game changer, Gregory said that the Town Council has to set priorities, even in adversity, and decide the important things to keep going. “Air service,” said Gregory, “is one of those things.” He said, “If the community is not behind this, the destination resort strategy won’t work.” Gregory called air service a fundamental element for a sustainable future and a way to make Mammoth Lakes a convenient place to live.
According to John Urdi, Mammoth Tourism Director, independent American Express research on air travel indicated that summer of 2011 saw an estimated economic impact to Mammoth Lakes of more than $4.6 million. That’s an estimated expenditure of $500 per passenger. More than half was spent on lodging and the rest on retail and food. Transient Occupancy Tax collected for summer of 2011 was around $316,000.
The special meeting to deal with this issue was scheduled for Wednesday at 5pm in Suite Z.