Central Reservations problems surface at LTVA meeting
A discussion Thursday on a test of the South Shore’s central reservations program turned into a tense debate on the differing philosophies of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, which owns the toll-free number, and the North Shore organization answering the phones.
During the LTVA Board of Directors meeting, board member John Wagnon, vice president of marketing for Heavenly Ski Resort, described a test of his own to the 1-800-AT-TAHOE South Shore reservations number.
“Out of six calls we made, five promoted Alpine (Ski Resort) packages right off the bat,” he said, reading several pages of transcribed conversations with the sales agents.
“If this is verbatim, that’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Don Miner, who represents Douglas County on the board. His concern was echoed by other board members.
Since December, agents for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association answer both the South Shore number and the 1-800-TO-TAHOE North Shore number.
According to NLTRA representative Kay Williams, the ski resorts on the South Shore have not provided packages for agents to sell while they do have Alpine and Squaw Valley, USA packages.
Williams and NLTRA Director of Operations Kris Collins also described the way the agents answer the phones.
“First we qualify whether the customer knows where they want to stay,” Collins said. “We say the same thing to callers on the North Shore number.”
Many callers are not aware of the distinction between the north and south shores, Williams said. “Ten to 20 percent of the calls we get are transferred back and forth.”
“This is a South Lake Tahoe phone number,” Wagnon replied, adding that promotions to make the phone ring at that number are paid for with South Shore dollars. “When they call up to book (reservations), they’re calling to book a South Lake Tahoe package.”
Board member Tom Davis, president of the Tahoe Keys Resort Association, reported more encouraging results for test calls made about six months ago by resort representatives, which were all directed to the South Shore.
Mike Bradford, president of Lakeside Inn & Casino and the vice-chairman sitting in for board chairman Mike Weber, instructed the NLTRA representatives to direct all 1-800-AT-TAHOE calls to South Shore businesses unless requested otherwise and to bring any problems with businesses not providing what they need to the attention of the LTVA.
“As customers, we need you to come back and tell us how you are going to address our concerns,” he said.
Ending on a more positive note, Wagnon added, “I want to fix the situation, I don’t want to trash it, I want to see it fixed.”
The mystery shopper test-call program, being conducted by business students from Lake Tahoe Community College, is expected to shed light on the reservation program problems and possible solutions. Results are expected next month.
Due scheduling conflicts, the next meeting of the South Lake Tahoe Board of Directors has been rescheduled to May 21 at 10 a.m. with the location to be confirmed.
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