Grand County Commissioners approved a budget amendment that pulls money from a transient room tax fund, called Fund 23, and the county’s General Fund to cover a gap between projected TRT revenues and actual 2022 TRT revenues, as well as to cover an expansion of the county’s tourism promotion campaigns and to fund approved grant programs for local businesses.
County Strategic Development Director and Chair of the Budget Advisory Board Chris Baird explained that the amendment pulls $311,624 from Fund 23 to maintain budgeted line items, and pulls $530,604 from the General Fund to make up for a mitigation impact fund decrease.
Another $459,000 will be drawn from Fund 23 to cover an extension/expansion of current tourism campaigns. The Grand County Economic Development Department has a contract with Love Communications for several promotional campaigns, including one aimed at the drive market (visitors who come to Moab by car).
The commission voted between two options in the contract with Love: one option would have channeled all of the $459,000 toward the drive market, which Economic Development Director August Granath said would be the quickest way to bring more visitors to Moab soon.
The other option, which the commission ultimately approved, set aside $100,000 of the $459,000 to target the fly market, a demographic that statistically spends more time and money in Moab. The commission’s long term marketing strategy is to attract higher spending visitors, but some commissioners noted that visitation is currently down and businesses are in need of an immediate boost.
“I think a good shot in the arm right now would be helpful to the businesses,” said Commissioner Mary McGann.
Commissioner Kevin Walker argued for the commission to “stay the course” with its long term strategy and allocate some of the money to the fly market. He pointed out that the dip in visitation is not very significant when compared to previous years rather than last year, which saw an anomalous spike in visitation; he also noted that the number of hotel rooms in the valley has increased significantly, contributing to more vacancies for each hotel—the vacancies are not only due to fewer visitors, but also to an increased supply of rooms. Commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the second option, with McGann in opposition.
The budget amendment also pulls $500,000 from Fund 23 to expand the county’s STAR grant program offered to local businesses and nonprofits, and $250,000 from Fund 23 to fund the county’s flood relief grant program.