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Holiday in the Basin

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Despite an estimated 30 percent decline in December motel bookings compared to last year, Lake Tahoe resorts from Sierra-at-Tahoe to Zephyr Cove are planning a big weekend for tourists.

AAA of Northern California places Tahoe as the fourth holiday hotspot for the 6.5 million Californians estimated to travel over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Hawaii topped the list, with Mexico as second followed by Disneyland. Las Vegas fills out the top five.



Still, the agency reports a 6 percent decrease in travelers this year, attributing the decline to a slumping economy and high unemployment.

“The decrease in travel isn’t necessarily surprising, but it is disappointing,” AAA spokesman Atle Erlingsson said. “The current recession is holding many people back and keeping them closer to home.”



And even though 83 percent are predicted to use the mode of transit that favors Lake Tahoe, lodging reservations for the region are down about 30 percent for the month.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority central reservations line — which handles Lakeland Village, Accommodation Station, Lake Tahoe Accommodations, Lakeside Inn and Casino and Tahoe Keys Resort to name a few — and South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association agree on the figures.

“We’re concerned about the smaller properties,” lodging association President-elect Jim Foff said in a joint area chambers of commerce meeting.

Like other properties, Foff said he dropped the minimum stay to accommodate more guests of the Fantasy Inn. The hotel has booked about 20 percent fewer reservations than last year.

The reservations vary by property.

Tom Davis, who runs Tahoe Keys Resort, said his vacation-rental company has booked about the same amount of guests this December as last year.

And the month hasn’t ended. Director of Central Reservations Kris Collins said Thursday that the telephones still are ringing with prospects of last-minute holiday plans.

“(The percentage) may go up a little,” Collins said.

There are saving graces for the Lake Tahoe Basin — visitors are more likely to frequent the region in winter when the snow conditions are favorable. Ski resorts all over the basin are celebrating a snowpack amounting to 145 percent of average. This contrasts with the 37 percent of the snowpack that was on the ground last April.

Moreover, two-thirds of Tahoe’s visitors travel by car, and low gas prices have increased the popularity of road travel.

The Washoe County Airport Authority advises those traveling via air to arrive to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport early and keep gifts to a minimum. The agency urges travelers to pack wrapped gifts in checked baggage, as security personnel may undo the wrapping at the checkpoints.

Motorists should also be advised that vehicles entering the parking structure will be inspected.

Several thousand travelers are predicted to pass through the airport between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.


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