South Shore business owners, officials report increase in summer tourism |

South Shore business owners, officials report increase in summer tourism

Griffin Rogers

Summer came and went in a hurry this year, but an increase in tourism has South Lake Tahoe business owners excited for the future.

Lodging, retail and residency this summer appeared to be up from last year’s totals, said Carol Chaplin, executive director of Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority. Some restaurants even reported record-breaking weekends.

“Generally speaking, the mood was very positive,” Chaplin said.

Chaplin estimated that lodging was up 15 to 25 percent at one point during the summer, but said official tourism figures were not readily available.

Still, businesses across the board have reported a major rebound from two summers ago, she said.

“People are feeling a little less discount-oriented,” Chaplin said.

Jerry Bindel, chairman of the South Lake Tahoe Tourism Improvement District, said the influx of business this summer resulted in a rash of excited chatter.

“A couple years ago, we were in a funk,” he said. “Last year was fairly healthy, but it was a little more spotty.”

This year, however, the district heard that businesses are doing well even outside of the so-called prime locations.

“What I’ve heard, in general, is that it’s been a very strong summer,” Bindel said.

But not all businesses saw significant increases. Others, such as Pat Ronan of Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa, saw a different trend.

“I was basically flat, but I had a great summer last year,” Ronan said.

Ronan’s lakefront property was able to capitalize on a significant increase in occupancy last year, he said. In some instances, occupancy rose up to 13 percent after South Shore’s relatively weak 2011 summer.

“I think I jumped out a little ahead of people,” he said.

Ronan didn’t get a similar increase this summer, but he doesn’t expect the lackluster totals to hold, he said. In other words, the surge in tourism might be here to stay.

“We think the trends going to continue,” Ronan said.

Bindel and Chaplin seem to agree.

Tourism will continue to increase as the economy continues to improve and several local projects advance the town’s infrastructure, Bindel said.

“You never know what the future is really going to hold,” he said, “but we are all forecasting the positive trend to continue into the next year.”

Winter tourism, on the other hand, could also experience a significant increase early on if weather conditions permit, Chaplin said. But right now, it’s too soon to make a prediction.

“Hopefully if we get a good early snow,” she said, “…that could set us up really nicely.”

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