Why Vitalization Matters

“Borrego Springs 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.
These improvements 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.
TOT Graph - Click on image for a larger view
 The graph (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.
Improving Borrego 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 well-being.


PO Box 1133   Borrego Springs  CA  92004-1133