The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau will offer a long-running ABC prime-time reality TV show up to $100,000 to convince the show to film an episode in Santa Fe.
The Bachelor, a reality show where a pool of female suitors compete for the love of a usually wealthy, young handsome man, reached out to the city two weeks ago about the possibility of filming an episode in Santa Fe. CVB Executive Director Randy Randall says officials from the TV show asked his office what it could offer to help them pay for the estimated $500,000 that would cost to film in Santa Fe over a period of roughly two weeks.
Randall says he quickly came up with a plan to offer $50,000 from his agency's reserve fund, which is generated by lodging taxes and can only be spent on advertising for the city (the reserve fund has roughly $750,000 in it, Randall says). The state tourism office offered to match Randall's offer with another $50,000, bringing the total incentive to $100,000.
But in case he needed more negotiating room—Randall is only allowed to spend $50,000 from the reserve fund without approval from city council—he came to city hall Wednesday night to ask for the ability to spend up to $100,000 from his agency to woo the reality TV show here. That ups the incentive to a possible $150,000 in public money.
The show, which ABC says is the network's most watched among women ages 18-34, has been on the air since 2002. Mayor Javier Gonzales, who voted in favor of the measure, spoke about the economic impact filming an episode could bring to the city.
"People are going to get to see the best of this community," Gonzales said. "And regardless of how we feel about the show, I don't know that we're ever going to get opportunities like this. And when we do, we should absolutely invest in opportunities to show Santa Fe for an hour to 14.3 million people, 200-plus countries around the world."
But this didn't stop the city's Southside delegation—city councilors Carmichael Dominguez, Chris Rivera, Bill Dimas and Ron Trujillo—from voting against the measure.
Dominguez points out that the demographic the show appeals to isn't necessarily whom Santa Fe markets tourism to. He also says he's never seen a company like ABC come to the city to ask for extra money to film a TV show like this before. The state already offers a 30 percent tax incentive for TV shows that film here.
"When we talk about our community's priorities, I have had to jump through a ton of red tape to get that Southside library open on Sundays," Dominguez says. "Certainly way more red tape than these guys had to jump through to get taxpayer monies."
At the hearing, Dimas mentioned how much he hates the TV show.
"I just have to tell you that my wife Candy and I probably would end up in a divorce at some point because of that show because she knows how much I hate it—she loves it," Dimas jokingly remarked at one point. "It's a terrible show. It's awful. If there was a city that was on that show and I watched it, I'd probably say, 'I'm never going to visit that city.'"
"Women make more decisions about travel then men do, so we'd probably be all right," Randall quipped back.
Trujillo stuck to a more serious tone, saying he'd rather see the money spent getting in-state residents to travel to Santa Fe.
"What are we trying to do here; are we trying to put Santa Fe on the national scene? Because it's already on the national scene," he said. "I don't think Santa Fe needs any help when it comes to the national scene. We stand well on our own. We're Santa Fe. We just won Condé whatever—we're the best small city to visit in the entire world (note: Trujillo is referring to Condé Nast's recent reader's poll ranking Santa Fe as the top small city in America)."
Randall retorted by arguing that the city still has a long way to go in its national tourism, pointing particularly to Santa Fe's average hotel occupancy rate of roughly 60 percent. He also spoke about the potential return on investment, which he said totaled around $2 million when the show filmed episodes in Thailand and Bermuda.
City Councilor Peter Ives, who also voted for the measure, spoke about the "significant" exposure that the show could bring to the city.
"As I understand, the program highlights the culture, the facilities of wherever it is filmed," Ives told Randall. "From my perspective, and I know this is coming out of your budget, if you think this is a good investment for the city to make, I fully support you in that."
Ives also stated his desire that if the CVB succeeds in wooing The Bachelor, it conduct a study analyzing the economic benefits that the show brought to the city.
Eight years ago, The Bachelorette, a spinoff of the series where the gender-roles are switched, approached Taos to film there. Joan Griffin, the tourism manager with the Town of Taos, says the show wanted the city to pay for between $25,000-$50,000 worth of expenses. Taos, which has an advertising budget of $150,000, decided to nix the offer.
"They basically wanted us to pay for everything, and they weren't going to mention Taos," Griffin says.
But she adds that the situation being proposed in Santa Fe could be different.
Randall will now go back to the negotiating table with ABC in hopes of convincing the show to film here. He says he thinks the show is also considering competing locations to film.