This one addresses the third presentation at the work session by Becky O'Connor giving the tourism marketing update.

[This is the third in a series of articles on the Grant County Commission meetings.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The third presentation came from the chair of the County Lodger's Tax Advisory Board Becky O'Connor, co-owner of Casitas de Gila.

"On the year just finished, Sunny505, who markets for Silver City and Grant County, provided a digital ad campaign on Facebook, which targeted people from the ages of 35-65, who enjoy the outdoors," O'Connor reported. "The ads focused on Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso and Tucson, for the drive market. It was more local for those who wanted to drive to a destination, during and immediately after the lockdowns due to the pandemic. The campaign garnered 1.2 million impressions. In addition, we had New Mexico Tourism providing programmatic ads that show up on whatever website a person is browsing. Those got 800,000 impressions. The state also uses Facebook ads, which received 2.3 million impressions."

With the grant received by the advisory board, "we paid $20,000 working with the state. The people working on those ads are fabulous. We're very happy. For additional ads, we have an ongoing ad on Tucson radio, with the commentator talking a lot about Grant County. We also had a banner for four months on a Tucson streetcar, which works well. Ads in the American Birding Guide and in the Cornell Living Birds bring a lot of birders here. These are casual birders, not ones with a list who are looking for specific birds."

"We did well in fiscal year 2021," O'Connor said. "We have the right kind of activities. Fiscal year 2022 is also going well, with people coming here to visit. We plan more of the same sort of advertising. The agreement with New Mexico Tourism will be up for your approval. The funding comes out of Lodger's Tax. We were awarded $80,000 for marketing, and it will cost us $27,000 for our match in a two-for-one match. We plan a couple of different things with the state and Sunny505. For two of the projects, the Tucson streetcar and the Cornell Living Bird magazine, the state will cover two-thirds of the cost. I am seeing a slight downturn in my bookings for July and August. I think it's the gas prices and the fires. All of our marketing is on the drivable distance locations, for weekend getaways, for example. Lodger's tax will be equal or possibly better than last year."

District 5 Commissioner and Vice Chair Harry Browne chaired the meeting due to District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce, as well as District 2 Commission Javier "Harvey" Salas, out due to illness.

Browne made a comment. "Looking ahead 10 years, it strikes me that the lack of electrical vehicle charging stations may be a problem. We have a couple at the Visitor Center, but that's it."

O'Connor agreed it is an issue. "We had a recent guest who had to go to Deming for a charge." She also noted that the state statute had pulled all lodging into lodger's tax, no matter how many rooms the lodging has. "Our local ordinance needs to be updated. With our existing lodgings we're pretty much maxxed out on tax receipts. In order to increase the revenues, we need to pull in all B and B lodgings. I will be happy to work on compiling a list."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings said he knows of quite a few new lodgings in Silver City."

O'Connor said she was only aware of one unit not paying the tax."

Interim County Manager Randy Villa said enforcement would fall under code enforcement.

O'Connor said previous county manager Charlene Webb's idea was to move code enforcement into the planning department. "I am happy to talk to you about that."

The following article will cover the Tu Casa report.

To view the first two articles in the series, please visit https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/72686-grant-county-commission-holds-lengthy-work-session-062122-part-1, which addressed the Gila National Forest presentation on the Black Fire and potential flooding impacts; and https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/72716-grant-county-commission-hears-several-presentations-at-work-session-062122-part-2 , which addressed the SE Group presentation on the Outdoor Recreation Plan.

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