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Businesses thrive with tourist trade

Most business owners and managers agree that without tourists, they would be hard-pressed to make ends meet.

Greg Saunders, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, said this area is unusual in that it has two high seasons: summer and ski.

Tourism is the driving force behind many of the jobs the area can offer people, he added.



“The Hyatt has 458 rooms. There are 1,200 timeshare rentals in just Incline Village and Crystal Bay. The Hyatt houses just one-quarter of the total number of area visitors,” Saunders said.

North Shore residents who complain about the crowds of people and blame the Hyatt for this, he said, need to remember the statistics.




“Our guests use our facilities, whereas many of the rental units give people IVGID passes,” he said.

Saunders said the economic impact of tourists to the North Shore is astronomical.

“During the ‘shoulder seasons’ we try to have more group business, meetings and conventions,” said Saunders.

But according to Saunders, tourism is where it is at.

“If it wasn’t for tourism I don’t think this town would exist,” he said.

Jim Jeffers, executive director of the Incline Village-Crystal Bay Chamber of Commerce, said he agrees with Saunders.

“There wouldn’t be a community if we didn’t have tourists,” said Jeffers.

According to Jeffers, the mom and pop operations, even the gas stations and the car parts shop, depend on tourists for survival.

“More than 50,000 people live all around the lake, and 3.5 million people visit the Lake Tahoe area each year, ” Jeffers said.

These figures are for the entire area, not just the North Shore. Still, the impact of visitors to the region is significant.

“Winter is a close second to summer in tourism,” Jeffers said.

The Tahoe Basin has the highest concentration of ski areas in the West, he added.

The average stay is four nights and the average amount a tourist spends each day, including lodging and meals, is $240,” Jeffers said.

At 9 million visitor days, that amounts to $1.6 billion, he said.

Jeffers said he understands that there are many retired people here who would just as soon tourists didn’t come, but the point is, Lake Tahoe is for everyone, not just those who live here.

“The tourists support local businesses,” he said.

But Justin Logan, manager for two years at Azzara’s Restaurant in the Raley’s center in Incline Village is less convinced that tourists make the difference.

“A lot of local people come in. There’s not too much difference when tourists are here,” he said.

However, other businesses in the Raley’s center say they feel the pinch when tourists are not visiting.

Larry Lanz, owner of the Hallmark store, said there’s no question that he relies on the tourists.

“The more the better,” said Lanz.

July and August are the store’s best-selling months, plus the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We would probably survive, but it would be difficult,” he said.

Incline Outfitters’ manager Anny Lepera said the store has a good local following. “It’s increased in the past couple of years.”

Tourist-driven business has increased as well.

“The Fourth of July is right up there with Christmas,” said Lepera about the difference tourists make on the business.

Raley’s manager Darius Vigil said tourists affect the store in many respects. Vigil said it’s important to keep tabs on the weather because it affects the influx of tourists to the North Shore.

“This year we had a softer Christmas because of the lack of snow, but we had a good February – and normally February is soft – because of the skiers,” said Vigil.

During the Christmas season, Vigil said he hires 15 extra employees.

“After January 1 they are automatically terminated,” said Vigil.

From May through Labor Day, Raleys employs 20 to 30 extra people, he said. The deli has 18 employees in the summer, compared with nine or 10 the rest of the year, and there are 20 to 25 baggers, up from the usual 15.

“Tourists have a profound effect on the store,” said Vigil.

At Bowl Incline, even though locals make up the regular leagues, owner Curt Wegener, 36, said, “Tourists are very important. We wouldn’t be able to exist without them.”

Wegener said statistics indicate that Incline Village’s population is too low to support a 16-lane bowling facility.

In the Christmas Tree Shopping Center, Mofo’s Pizza owner John Morrison said the restaurant depends quite a bit on tourist business.

“That’s how we make it profitable. Without them we’d barely make it,” said Morrison.

At Austin’s Restaurant, on Country Club Drive in Incline Village, the summer season and New Year’s Eve make a huge difference in the business, according to Andrea Brimm, whose parents own the restaurant.

Its location across from the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe also boosts the business, according to Brimm.

Tourists definitely affect business even though the restaurant has a well-established local clientele, she said.


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