Speakers at Thursday’s Annual Tourism Forum emphasized the need for South Lake Tahoe to attract the growing number of international tourists visiting California and the United States annually.
Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California and chairwoman of Brand USA, spoke Thursday about China as an emerging powerhouse market for the tourism industry. She stated that by 2015, there will be about 1.1 million Chinese visiting California. And business members in the South Shore community and regionwide will have to collaborate to take advantage of that market, she said.
“Our job, everyone is this room, is to create desire for the California experience,” Beteta said. “As much as we are all marketers promoting our product, I think it’s just as important that we’re promoting our industry as well.”
Denise Pirrotti-Hummel, CEO and founder of San Diego-based consulting firm Universal Consensus, expanded on Beteta’s message by outlining specific ways South Lake Tahoe could improve its image as a international destination.
Quick fixes based on information about global targets such as Chinese tourists, young travelers and single parents included linking South Shore ecotourism to international environmental organizations, inviting an app developer to create digital maps of the basin’s recreational opportunities and creating gaming and golf packages.
Pirrotti-Hummel also stressed the importance of respect and awareness for other cultures. The signs she passed entering town were only in English and could be confusing to a Chinese or Hispanic visitor, she said.
“I’d like to see some harmony, some light and life downtown, even if you have to wait a little while for these massive infrastructure things to change that would revolutionize life here. The little steps can be taken,” Pirrotti-Hummel said.
The Annual Tourism Forum, which has grown annually since its inception, focuses on marketing Tahoe as a premier destination, according to TahoeChamber Event Coordinator Emily Abernathy.
Last year’s forum produced a report from California State University, Chico, students on how to make the South Shore more visitor-friendly. Speakers discussed how the community can develop its “attraction carrot” to overcome economic or environmental difficulties and how snow sports towns will ultimately have to adjust to climate changes.
“We are a tourist destination, so we want to make sure our businesses are up to date with the tourism trends,” Abernathy said.
The tourism forum is presented in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, the South Tahoe Alliance of Resorts and TahoeChamber.