Chamber merger could bring changes for visitor centers |

Chamber merger could bring changes for visitor centers

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Jack Thomas, left, explores the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and his mother, Nicole, looks for a place to take him while the rest of the family is on the slopes Monday.

When Nicole Thomas comes to an area, the first thing she does is stop by a visitor center.

The Florida woman walked into the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce visitor center Monday with a mission in mind.

“Where do I go to do things with my baby?” she asked the clerk on the other side of the counter. Fifteen-month-old Jack was getting a crash course in Lake Tahoe gear, eyeing many items for sale that say Lake Tahoe on them.

Sledding on a bunny hill like El Dorado Beach was mentioned, along with a sleigh ride the Borges family runs on the other side of Caesars Tahoe.

As the two Tahoe-area chambers decide today on whether to merge, things will change at the region’s visitor centers. For one, the chambers would no longer operate the visitors centers. Instead, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority will operate one to be built in Edgewood Village at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade as well as a smaller one proposed on Lake Tahoe Boulevard at midtown. That’s where the California chamber offices and a mini visitor center now sits.

The chamber is where Thomas said she always relies on for visitor information. Machines and interactive displays are what Thomas often finds in the 10 national parks she rattled off as those she’s visited. Still, she opts for a personal touch versus machines in finding out places to go.

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This brand new type of visitor center will make its way into the Tahoe vernacular – with high technology the dominant force.

As proposed, the LTVA will establish interactive displays that will take a visitor through all the region has to offer in the Blue World, the $1 million promotional campaign created to sell the image of Lake Tahoe.

A brochure rack will feature businesses that are chamber members. Non chamber members can display their brochures for an undisclosed fee. The idea here is it gives a non member reason to join.

A kiosk will link to, the tourism organization’s Web site that lists chamber and non chamber businesses in its listings. Plasma ceilings screens will tout the beauty of Tahoe – season by season.

With all this, LTVA Executive Director Patrick Kaler pledged the agency will not lose sight of providing the personal touch. He plans to double the manpower at the visitor centers, and use the proceeds from the sale of its building on Ski Run Boulevard to make upgrades to the chamber building and create a whole new visitor center to the joint offices at Edgewood Village. The LTVA building was last assessed four years ago at $400,000.

More than 20 million people visit Lake Tahoe every year.