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Gaming requests last minute change in LTVA direction

Sally J. Taylor

Development of the Orange County promotional campaign by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority was put on hold Friday in response to a letter by the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance.

The letter, which asks the LTVA to “delete the Orange County proposal” from it’s marketing plan, was delivered Thursday to the LTVA office.

With a “major player” in the marketing plan questioning its direction, Executive Director Ron Spellecy elected to “stop the forward progress” of the Orange County program pending a meeting of the board of directors, possibly on Wednesday, to consider the request.

“The timing of the (letter) is a concern,” Spellecy said on Friday, expressing frustration at the stall so close to the start of the campaign. “We’ve been working on this all year.

“We need to work together (to market Lake Tahoe). I thought we we were.”

Gaming Alliance board member Michael Bradford, president of the Lakeside Inn & Casino and a member of the LTVA board, wrote the letter on behalf of the alliance.

“We’re continuing to see the gaming market trends in Tahoe decline,” Bradford said of the reason for the letter. “The cause of that, we believe, is in large part due to the erosion of the Northern California gaming market.”

Acknowledging that the request was late in the process, Bradford said, “The lodging properties (in the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association) have been saying that (the focus should be on Northern California) for a long time. We’ve been persuaded by their reasoning.”

LTVA board chairman Mike Weber, managing director of Camp Richardson Resort, also expressed frustration at the with the LTGA letter.

“Politics and special interests have been a distraction in the past here in Lake Tahoe and at the LTVA,” he said. “People have spent too much time on dysfunctional energy. It’s time to convert that energy into a positive effort to improve the economy of Lake Tahoe and generate more room nights as well.”

Spellecy hoped an emergency LTVA board meeting could be called before the first meeting of the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority Board of Directors scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Tahoe Administration Building at Kahle Drive.

The new Tahoe-Douglas organization, comprised of four gaming officials and one Douglas County Commissioner, was created by the Nevada legislature to manage Douglas County promotional dollars, a major funding source of the LTVA.

The timing of the Gaming Alliance letter just before the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority’s first meeting was “coincidental,” Bradford said. The timing was actually the result of low numbers from Tahoe’s fall shoulder season.

“We believe there is a role for destination marketing (outside Northern California),” Bradford said. “But given the magnitude of the decline, we need to reconsider priorities.”

The $800,000 Orange County campaign is the culmination of a year of strategic planning that changed the focus of LTVA promotions from Northern California, the primary feeder market, to a search for a destination market to attract tourists likely to stay longer, especially midweek.

The current LTVA marketing plan calls for the distribution of Lake Tahoe travel inserts in Northern California newspapers two times a year. Advertising by Lake Tahoe lodging, casinos, recreation and attractions will help pay for the distribution. The first insert is planned for distribution in mid-January.

The marketing plan directs the largest chunk of promotional dollars, $800,000, for a more comprehensive campaign in Orange County involving cable-television, regional magazine and newspaper advertising.

Had advertising copy been approved by the LTVA Marketing and Sales committees on Friday as planned, the first newspaper ads emphasizing skiing could have appeared around Thanksgiving.


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