Gondola, community noted by state tourism director
To the Golden State’s top tourism authority, what comes around goes around in South Lake Tahoe this New Year’s holiday.
Caroline Beteta, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Travel and Tourism Commission, returned to her roots by taking an inaugural spin Friday afternoon on the new gondola at Heavenly.
This was especially nostalgic for a lifelong skier who took up the sport at the South Shore ski resort when her mother placed her on her first pair of skis here at age 3.
The 76-year-old elder matriarch still skis to this day, said Beteta, who in turn had taken her 4-year-old daughter Alex up to the 9,000-foot summit.
“It’s fabulous. The visual appeal and overall experience gives the South Shore the mass market appeal,” Beteta said, looking out the 8-passenger car window at the panoramic view that lends credence to Heavenly’s name.
The $20 million landmark is in line with an emerging renaissance in California’s boom of tourism-based infrastructure projects, she declared.
In a state with the seventh largest economy in the world, billions of dollars are being spent to upgrade pleasure-oriented facilities, attractions and destinations designed to engulf and educate the visitor.
More than 80 percent are Californians traveling around the state, she said.
The big challenge for California tourism revolves around the ability to promote a multi-faceted treasure chest of activities and destinations to a fragmented audience with a minor case of attention deficit disorder.
What the commission has found is the average visitor these days cascades the activities. Many people overbook on vacation. They probably won’t be able to cover their schedule, but they are content with knowing they have the selection.
Promoting other states with a one-dimensional message represents an easy task in comparison to California, with so many tricks up its sleeve that make it a bane and a blessing in trying to nail down one selection.
Simply, there are too many choices.
So for a commission formed four years ago to put tourism on the front lines of an export economy that’s a force to be reckoned with, the focus must be succinct.
Beteta said the state has experienced a decline in the last decade because it rested on its laurels of knowing it’s a tourism draw and didn’t promote itself. And like any advertising payoff, the lack of promotion resulted in a falloff in visitation.
That has changed. In the last few years, the tourism numbers have shown a 40 percent increase.
The commission’s strategy has shown a shift in the last five years from promoting California as a summer travel hot spot – a given with its world-class beaches – to a ski destination such as Heavenly that wields “world-class appeal,” she said.
The international visitor, of which the state captures six million, has become an important component in the equation, Beteta declared.
For starters, Europeans don’t have the advanced infrastructure in their travel hot spots as do those in the United States. But what they do have is time.
Europeans traditionally take twice as much time off a year as Americans. This makes them ripe for spreading the tourism wealth, and they seek to get the most bang for the buck on vacation.
“We say, ‘Come to California, not just as a ski destination. Spend a day in San Francisco, then come to the resorts,’ ” Beteta said, adding many out-of-state and international visitors are also looking to experience California’s eclectic culture. This multitude of possibilities that is offfered to the visitor makes it imperative to incorporate focus in promotional materials.
The commission uses an IMAX film, which includes Heavenly, in order to sell California to prospective visitors.
Collaboration is the key. The commission relies on the synergy of local promotion with the state’s $5 million campaign to supplement the Heavenly Valleys of this world, Beteta said of the 138-car gondola she calls an appealing icon for the city.
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