Lake Tahoe businesses experiencing slow summer season

Ashleigh Goodwin and Madison Schultz /, mschultz@tahoedailytribune
Stateline casinos gaming win was down for the fiscal year, the only Nevada gaming area down during that time.
Provided/Bill Rozak

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Tahoe Basin is an epicenter for the avid outdoor adventurer and many visitors frequent the area to enjoy the adventurous amenities that come with a lake lifestyle. Business owners and locals typically prepare for large influxes of visitors during the summer season, however this summer Tahoe communities have been, surprisingly, slower than the last two years.

With peak summer season typically being a lucrative time of year for Tahoe business owners, the contrary has been happening, ultimately resulting in many local businesses feeling a serious strain of slower tourism this season.

“Business has been incredibly slow so far this season,” Jenay Aiksnoras, Owner of Bliss Experiences, a South Lake Tahoe yoga, wellbeing, and retreat studio said. “We have a handful of interactive classes that we advertise to fill, but they really haven’t been full all summer long.” 

Aiksnoras reflects on the past summer seasons of expected tourism numbers during the initial COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 and the Caldor Fire in 2021 in comparison to a slower summer 2022 and believes that current lodging and accommodation rates are a portion of the problem. 

“When looking back, we’ve had the overall expected amount of tourism during both 2020 and 2021, and both years we’ve had local catastrophes happening,” Aiksnoras said. “When you look at the local accommodations in the area, they are significantly more expensive than they were in the past. So, when visitors are coming on vacation here, they are doing just a simple beach day rather than taking a paddle board yoga class.”

Doug Williams, president of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association, elaborates on this, and claims that the slower economy this year has been impacted by high gas prices, inflation, fear of a recession, and anti-tourism attitudes from a minority of the local community. 

Duane Wallace of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce expanded on the lack of tourism by analyzing some unconventional reports. Reports from the South Tahoe Public Utility District prove current tourism numbers are significantly lower. 

“Sewage numbers are very accurate as to showing how many people are in town without being too graphic,” Wallace said. “Someone produces the same amount of sewage no matter where they are, and according to the report of this year, numbers are lower than the last three summers.”

Outdoor recreation is arguably taking the biggest hit to feeling the repercussions of slower tourism. Chris Rozzo of Elevated Water Sports in Incline Village agrees, stating that new restrictions this summer on commercial use make it difficult for water sports businesses to effectively operate.  

North Lake Tahoe business owners Chris and Darin Talbot of Around Tahoe Tours are also feeling the repercussions of a slower summer season as well. 

“It’s definitely slow compared to last year and a lot of people are trying to do it on their own,” Chris Talbot said. 

In fact, higher tax rates are a potential influence on this summer’s slower tourism season. The transient occupancy tax, also known as TOT, may be raised through the election from 10% to 14% on visitors to the Lake Tahoe area that are staying in local accommodations earlier this year in spring 2022 in efforts to provide additional funding to dedicate towards road construction and snow removal. And according to the TRPA’s Sustainable Transportation Funding Initiative, this tax increase also has the potential to further discourage the severe flows that the local community has come to expect during the dense tourism seasons. 

“Millions of visitors from outside the region, primarily seasonal tourism and outdoor recreation, drive the region’s $5 billion annual economy,” TRPA’s Sustainable Transportation Funding Initiative Revenue Options report said. “Visitor flows put metropolitan-level travel demands on the region’s limited and largely rural transportation system.”

While the demands on a limited transportation system are large, Wallace further weighs in on this issue, and believes that this tax increase has the potential to put a damper on Tahoe’s economic success. 

“In my opinion the increased tax rates are messing with economic market forces they do not understand,” Wallace said. “Mother nature is adversary enough for our economy and businesses.” 

According to Wallace, the Tahoe Chamber of Commerce phones have been ringing nonstop, and he’s at the forefront, answering the calls of those curious about Tahoe’s conditions.

“A disturbing number of individuals have called to ask about whether they should come or not,” Wallace said. “A lot of the calls are about whether there are fires or smoke, asking if the lake is green with algae, if people are peeing in the water, some even heard the lake was almost out of water due to the drought and many mentioned they simply don’t feel comfortable here.” 

Looking forward, Wallace urges Tahoe locals to get further involved with the community and to acknowledge that we live in a town that relies on tourism, and that if the locals understand that, it’s ultimately better protection for Tahoe towns in the future. 

Correction: This story has been updated to show the accurate TOT percentage.

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