California and Tahoe region shows tourism growth potential | TahoeDailyTribune.com

California and Tahoe region shows tourism growth potential

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Tourism industry insiders from across California met in the Bay Area last month to discuss tourism trends and growth potential for the state as part of Visit California's 2016 Outlook Forum.

Among the points of emphasis, the conference focused on growing international tourism, digital marketing strategies and California's overall tourism growth.

"California is the No. 1 travel destination in the United States," Visit California president and CEO Caroline Beteta said in a press release. "We witnessed another record-setting year in 2015, and Outlook Forum ensures we remain top-of-mind as a premier travel destination."

According to the nonprofit marketing organization's 2014 numbers, spending by travelers totaled $117.5 billion, generating over 1 million jobs and $9.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

As for future growth, South Tahoe-based tourism consultant Carl Ribaudo of SMG Consulting said, "There's definitely a focus on international (visitors)."

It's an area Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority (LTVA) executive director Carol Chaplin said the Tahoe Basin could afford to capitalize on, since the majority of current visitation is more regional or drive-market based.

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"To know that they (Visit California) are helping to bring people to California that are destination travelers, that's something that we (LTVA) have a hard time doing with a smaller budget," Chaplin said. "I'm really excited about the prospect of the destination visitor that could be from many different countries. That's the person that's spending more and staying more nights."

While weekend visitation is strong in the region, both Ribaudo and Chaplin indicated that the Tahoe Basin has significant room to grow for midweek visits.

"Having more business on Tuesday and Wednesday nights would be awesome," Chaplin said.

Part of Visit California's branding emphasis is also based on promoting lifestyle, Ribaudo noted.

"They're really trying to promote the culture of California," he explained. "That's something we can capture on the South Shore. Culture is the new brand."

While he said South Lake Tahoe has made significant progress in terms of cultural offerings, Ribaudo also believes it has a long way to go when compared to some other mountain destinations.

"I think we've done a good job. We've seen tremendous improvement and I think we need to continue," he said, adding however, "I don't think we're on the same level as other destinations."

Ribaudo suggested a bigger emphasis on the arts would be a step in the right direction.

"I'd like to see the formation of an arts and cultural coalition," he said, explaining a need for more events, activities and art. "We don't have that organizing element that a lot of destinations have."

He also pointed toward the proposed Highway 50 revitalization project as a significant step toward improving the area, and credited Heavenly Village as a step toward a more focused cultural center.

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