LTVA directors leave marks
During the 11 year history of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, three executive directors have stood at the helm.
When the organization set sail in 1986, the first executive director was marketing consultant Barbara Klein, who left her position as marketing director for the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
Klein, with a team of six department managers plus support staff “formed the basis for the programs that were successful and brought credit to the organization,” she said. “The events program speaks for itself. Many are still happening and continue to grow.”
Those include the Celebrity Golf Championship, the Kokanee Salmon Festival and the Valhalla Summer Festival of the Arts.
“All were done as partnerships,” she added.
Following an extensive reorganization and downsizing, Klein resigned.
Submitting her resignation on Feb. 1, 1993, she formed her own consulting firm, BK Enterprises.
“Everyone’s still involved (in tourism),” Klein said of her LTVA co-laborers. “That speaks well; they truly are professionals.”
On May 1, 1993, Skip Sayre moved from private consultant to executive director of the streamlined LTVA.
Sayre had previously worked in public relations at the High Sierra Casino/Hotel which became the Horizon Casino Resort.
The board of directors “wanted a marketing director who would roll up his sleeves and work with a smaller staff,” Sayre said. “I felt really well equipped with my marketing experience to do precisely what they were looking for.”
The board charged Sayre to increase visitor room nights by marketing to Northern California and to build communication with the community.
The latter required a surprising amount of time and energy, Sayre said.
“Getting everybody on the same page, to a large part, I was able to do that,” he said.
Increasing room nights was more difficult.
“We moved the needle a little bit but not enough,” he said. “We did not attain the goals we set for ourselves.”
Sayre is most proud of the increase in attendance at the Celebrity Golf Championship, transforming it from a media event to a spectator event as well.
Organizing a $1 million dollar subsidy for RenoAir was also a success even though the airline flew into Lake Tahoe Airport less than a year.
“The three plus years I was there,” Sayre said, “I’m very proud of what was accomplished. I have no regrets. It was a great experience for me.”
June 11, 1996, Sayre resigned from the LTVA to join Harrah’s Lake Tahoe as director of marketing.
“Through Harrah’s, I welcome the opportunity to continue to be involved,” he said.
Looking for an outside perspective, the board of directors on Aug. 13, 1996, hired Ron Spellecy, the former vice president of marketing for the Phoenix and Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau.
With Spellecy at the helm, the LTVA entered a new phase of soul-searching while developing a five-year strategic plan.
During the flood-triggered closure of U.S. Highway 50 during most of January and February, Spellecy led an emergency marketing campaign to encourage tourists to come by other routes.
“That was a heck of a start for us. We built a lot of support, made some friends and some skeptics,” Spellecy said.
“We were trying to get the community together as a whole. Everybody did rally around. It was not you, they.”
With the strategic plan now in place, Spellecy is preparing to take the LTVA in a new direction.
“I know we’ve got our work cut out. But I think we can be (considered an asset by the community). We need some time.”
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