Businesses cautiously optimistic about long weekend |

Businesses cautiously optimistic about long weekend

South Shore businesses hope to get a better cut of tourism dollars than they did during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Some are a little more cautious about overestimating a holiday that may fail to be one to write home about.

“To be honest with you, a lot of customers come from the Silicon Valley, and they’re hurting,” said Tom Nobriega, assistant manager of the Safeway in South Lake Tahoe.

He echoed the sentiment of many seeking more snow to ensure the skiers and boarders show up. The National Weather Service forecasts a dry period through the long holiday weekend.

“We’d be happy if we do what we did last year,” Nobriega said.

They just might do so.

AAA has predicted the sluggish economy may send many travelers behind the wheel.

The Northern California division of the auto club estimated 3.6 million Californians will travel by car — the highest number in four years. That would be up 1.2 percent from last year.

“Travel by car is a growing trend across the country — most likely influenced by the state of our economy,” AAA spokesman Atle Erlingsson said from his San Francisco office. “With this sluggish economy, any increase is good news.”

Of those traveling, 59 percent intend to stay with family and friends, while a quarter expect to sleep in a hotel or motel — up 2 percent from 2001.

This is welcome news to the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association — with a membership that maintains a midweek business booking under 50 percent.

Lodging Association President Jim Foff, who runs the Fantasy Inn, predicted his hotel would sell out about 80 percent of its rooms this weekend. But other hotels — more family oriented — would fare better from the growing number of those who procrastinate over their length of stay.

“What I hear is people will come up just to enjoy time in the mountains,” Foff said. “I think it’s going to be a strong drive-up market.”

AAA has narrowed the numbers to include 880,000 predicted to travel from the Bay Area, one of South Lake Tahoe’s primary feeder markets.

More than half of Caesars Tahoe’s visitors hail from the Bay Area, many coming up for big-name showroom entertainment. This Friday, Caesars hosts the 1970s rock band Yes.

Sue Hyde, vice president of marketing, remained optimistic about the holiday weekend’s prospects, adding the casino has completely booked its rooms Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There’s vacancy Wednesday, as some motorists have decided to forego the traffic jam out of the city the night before.

“It’s very exciting. I think the fact the ski resorts are open is positive,” she said.

Heavenly and Kirkwood have joined North Shore resorts in opening in time for the holiday.

With all the mention of a significant driving public, air travel is also expected to hold its own with a 4.5 percent jump from last year. AAA reports more than 760,000 of the 4.4 million traveling Californians may take to the skies. The Washoe County Airport Authority anticipates at least 100,000 people to pass through the Reno/Tahoe International Airport. If traveling by plane, airport officials recommend arriving at least two hours before departure.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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