downtown is in the midst of a make-over, spurred by
the enthusiasm of a number of community
organizations and volunteers, including residents
and visitors. Why do such initiatives matter? Why
should we care? As Borrego Village Association
President Gwenn Marie points out here, the future of
our town may indeed depend on it."
It’s hard to miss
the changes we’re seeing in town. Thanks to generous
and diligent work by a host of supporters,
entrepreneurs, and volunteers, our village core is
getting a much-needed facelift.
In the two years
since the Borrego Village Association’s modest plan
to create a few “pocket parks,” a wave of
vitalization has swept Palm Canyon Drive. Our main
business thoroughfare is beginning to look fresh,
vibrant, and cared for.
and others such as traffic-calming and directional
signage matter because nothing less than the
economic future of our town is at stake. The base of
Borrego Springs’ economy is tourism, and it is
visitors who bring dollars into town, supporting
lodging, restaurants, shops, and services.
A key measure of
the health of tourism is the Transient Occupancy Tax
(TOT). This “hotel tax” is a percentage (8%)
collected by all hotels, motels, inns, and vacation
rentals in Borrego Springs.
(click on image for a larger view)
shows our TOT collections over fifteen years -- a
troubling story. Our TOT has dropped a staggering
58% in value since 1998. This is not good news for
our community. It shows that overnight visits, key
to the tourism economy, have taken a huge hit.
Overnight visitors eat in our restaurants and shop
in our stores. They contribute vastly more to our
economy than day-trip visitors do.
Yes, 9/11, the
recession, and the closure of La Casa del Zorro have
each taken a toll. Yet the numbers have still been
on a consistent slide. This trend must be reversed,
or we may see tourism go the way of agriculture -- a
continually shrinking element of our economy.
Tourists vote with
their feet. They either like what they see when they
visit, or they go somewhere else more appealing. And
it is happy tourists who spread the word, bring
others, and visit us again and again.
Springs will attract and retain more tourists and
part-time residents. It will boost employment and
enhance the lives of local residents. It’s hard to
imagine having 11 restaurants here without tourism.
If we appreciate our restaurants, shops, and
services, then we must attract more tourism dollars
to allow them to operate year round.
Let’s hope we’re at
the bottom of the curve and there will be gains in
TOT collections ahead. The re-opening of La Casa del
Zorro is a positive sign, and new owners willing to
invest in Palm Canyon Resort will be also.
Either way, making
our village core more appealing, safe, and fun for
visitors is critical to our future economic