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Until this year Griffin’s contract was funded with lodgers tax money, but that budget was impacted on two fronts this year.
First, lodgers tax revenues are lower than they have ever been, largely due to federal budget cutbacks and travel restrictions. Los Alamos National Laboratory has also greatly reduced its use of contractors, who also filled beds at hotels in the county.
The visitor centers contract is considered to be the most critical use of LTAB funds. In the past that has averaged $165,000 to $195,000 a year, leaving between $55,000 to $107,000 for marketing and promotion.
This year council also recognized the need to extend hours at the White Rock visitor center to enhance customer service and promote the county during the hours the Bandelier shuttle is running.
They voted in April to allocate the entire $202,695 available in lodgers tax funds to the visitor centers.
Council also approved $89,000 for the visitor promotions contract with Griffin, funded from the Economic Development marketing and
The prospects of increasing Lodgers Tax Revenues look dim for next year as well, although there was a bump from housing firefighters during the Thompson Ridge wildfire.
Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher anticipates the county may need to augment marketing funds again next year to keep the momentum going.
Fisher has researched what other communities spend for similar services.
“I did a little scan, and communities of our size spend between $100,000 and $600,000 to $700,000 a year doing this,”
Fisher sees the relatively modest amount the county is paying Griffin as a sound investment in drawing visitors to Los Alamos and capturing the estimated $30 to $300 a day the average tourist spends.
“I think we have to be prepared to keep advertising and marketing as we build our capacity, meaning we have to increase lodger nights, we’ve got to increase lodger tax revenues,” Fisher said.
“We want LTAB to support tourism and marketing, but it’s not there right now. That’s means we have more work to do as a community.”