Clinging winter douses May TOT numbers |

Clinging winter douses May TOT numbers

Sally J. Taylor

Tourism damage from the spring that never arrived showed up last week in the city’s report on May room tax collections.

According to the monthly report compiled by the city of South Lake Tahoe, transient occupancy tax revenues for the month dropped 14.12 percent compared to May 1997, this year’s first decline.

Room occupancy in the city, which has gone up and down since January, dropped 3 percent compared to a year ago for an average 31-percent occupancy in May.

The average room price also dropped from $55.13 in 1997 to $49.12 in May 1998.

Charlie McDermid, owner of Holiday Inn Express, a longtime Tahoe lodging owner and former officer of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association, summed up the impact of May 1998 on the industry as “awful, awful.” He blamed much of the decline on the winter weather conditions that hung on through the month and spoiled weekend business.

He expects June to look a lot better based on the numbers at his own property.

“April was up tremendously and June was up,” he said. Although his own property showed an increase from a year ago, McDermid said the performance was “mediocre.”

“Maybe with the hot weather, it will pick up.”

Many lodging owners expect brisk business thanks to a heat wave throughout the West. Typically, valley temperatures in the 100s drive people up the mountain to cool off.

McDermid said Holiday Inn Express is booked on weekends through Labor Day. Midweek reservations are less solid.

Occupancy at McDermid’s property averages around 60 percent for the year, he said, well above the city average. That’s partly thanks to the brand-name recognition provided by the Holiday Inn Express label.

Many other motel owners struggle to reach half that percentage. Once needed as overflow for the casinos, many smaller motels have now deteriorated due to age and lack of business to pay for upgrades.

“The city of South Lake Tahoe is not overbuilt, it’s under demolished,” McDermid said.

He expressed the hope that small-motel owners will benefit from redevelopment or be able to convert their properties to other uses.

Blocking some conversions is a regulation that places many motels in a tourism-commercial zone that prevents the sale of commercial square footage. Currently, the lodging association, city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are working to change that policy.

In the meantime, many hope the heat wave continues.

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