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September 7, 2012
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Summer business good, not necessarily great

According to the calendar, summer doesn't end for another two weeks.

But, with the Labor Day weekend in the rearview mirror, travel to the South Shore will ebb and businesses will start to prepare for Lake Tahoe's winter tourist season.

South Shore lodging numbers for July and August won't be available for several weeks, but business operators and officials reported a largely successful summer season Friday.

"It was pretty difficult to be anything but pleased with this summer," said Scott Craig, the general manager at Riva Grill. Consistently good weather helped drive business compared to summer 2011, when winter never seemed to end. "It was certainly nice that it didn't rain all of May and June this year," Craig said.

Hot weather in the Central and Carson valleys this summer also helped drive business to Lake Tahoe this summer, said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Big travel holidays, like Fourth of July, saw good business, but overall, the summer was "not stellar" for visitation, said JoAnn Conner, president of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, which includes about 250 businesses at the South Shore.

"We still need more room nights, we still need more heads on beds and we still need more people going out to restaurants," Conner said.

Many businesses did not make enough to coast through the colder months and are hopeful a big winter season will stoke the local economy, Conner said.

Although the proof will be in the occupancy numbers, Chaplin said she is "cautiously optimistic" about how the South Shore fared this summer.

A strong lineup of summer music at Stateline casinos, record-breaking attendance at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament and heavy interest in events like Labor Day Weekend's Sample the Sierra all point to an upswing in summer business, Chaplin said.

"For the most part, it's good news," Chaplin said. "I think we all felt that business was up."

Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce CEO and president B Gorman agreed, saying many of the businesses she has spoken with are pleased with the local economy this summer.

"I'm hearing that people were busy and were appreciative of being busy," Gorman said.

Early summer hotel tax numbers do show some reasons for optimism. June 2012 Transient Occupancy Tax figures for South Lake Tahoe were up 19 percent -from $103,421 to $123,119 - compared to June 2011. May 2012 figures were up 11.87 percent - from $54,199 to $60,635 - compared to May 2011. Despite the early summer uptick, the most recent numbers show the city's fiscal year-to-date hotel tax collection is down 3.3 percent compared to the previous fiscal year through June 2011.

On the Nevada side, Douglas County Room Tax Revenue for Lake Tahoe lodging properties for July 2011 to June 2012 rose about 1.5 percent to $5,698,613, compared to $5,613,864 for July 2010 to June 2011, according to county data.

And, while there may be some year-over-year improvements in visitation, Gorman cautioned that it's important to look at pre-recession numbers as a point of comparison. The South Shore still has work to do to return to the economy of the early to mid-2000s, Gorman said

On the positive side, years of tight consumer spending appear to be loosening, if only slightly, said Chaplin and Craig.

"A lot of people were spending a little bit more," Craig said.

Travelers have also started booking stays further in advance, improving the climate for lodging properties, Gorman said.

While the summer isn't technically over and there are still some crowd-drawing events on the horizon, the masses of travelers will dwindle as the weather turns cold and businesses make the transition to winter at Lake Tahoe. And, with any luck, the snow will cooperate this winter like the sun cooperated this summer, Chaplin said.

"I'm going to hope for an early winter," Chaplin said.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 7, 2012 08:57PM Published Sep 7, 2012 08:55PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.