Even though the country avoided a serious fall, the travel industry might be headed for the brink after Washington passed the "fiscal cliff" deal last week, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
U.S. Travel, a national organization that lobbies on behalf of travel- and tourism-dependent businesses, warned that the new legislation could impact discretionary spending and doesn't solve spending cuts that will affect federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Those cuts could make multi-hour lines standard at large airports as federal officials cope with fewer resources, U.S. Travel predicted. While the deal leaves most peoples' income tax unaffected, the expiration of tax breaks like the payroll holiday could impact the amount individuals spend on travel.
The South Shore has avoided most of these hits so far, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin said, partly because of the seasonal present from Mother Nature that fell in December.
"I would say that this winter we're not seeing impacts to travel. We're doing really well, but that's influenced by the great conditions we have," Chaplin said.
TahoeChamber President and CEO "B" Gorman said consumer confidence actually seems to be increasing in the basin. This season's holiday spending is also on the rise, Gorman said.
"I'm hearing that reservations are being made earlier and for longer stays. They're not waiting until the last minute to make a deal. We're hearing that 98 percent of the businesses were up around 15 to 20 percent, and that's phenomenal" she said.
While most of the information is still anecdotal, revenue for the South Lake Tahoe casino corridor in November was up almost 27 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to a Nevada Gaming Control Board report released Thursday. Overall, gaming win was down 11 percent across Nevada.
As an additional buffer against economic issues at home, the South Shore has set its sights on attracting more international visitors. When it comes to international travel, Chaplin's hopeful. LTVA's partners that track the numbers have found an increase in global tourists to Tahoe.
"They do tend to spend more because that's the big 'hurrah.' They might only be here once," Chaplin said.
As opposed to the weekend warriors who brave congested roads and crowded slopes for two-day trips, international visitors usually stay up to 10 days and fill hotel rooms that might otherwise be empty on weekdays, Chaplin said.
So how do you attract those skiers who live half a world away? Chaplin said part of the answer lies in collaborating with other communities throughout the Sierra Nevada to reach a broader audience and mitigate advertising costs.
LTVA will leave it up to businesses to create the events and activities that appeal specifically to international visitors, Chaplin said. Heavenly Mountain Resort plans to launch a Latin ski week in late March that will cater to Central and South American clients and feature big-name soap opera stars.
"There's still a domestic destination element. But Tahoe's always done pretty well internationally and continuing to ride that surge is a good idea," Heavenly's Communications Director Russ Pecoraro said.