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LTVA feels optimistic

Sally J. Taylor

More hopeful voices spoke out Friday by the end of a four-hour Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Board of Directors meeting.

Spoken mostly after a large crowd of public observers had diminished, the positive words followed a more tense dialogue regarding the ongoing marketing debate that has fractured relationships within the bistate organization and its partners.

“There’s reason to be optimistic,” said John Wagnon, vice president of marketing for Heavenly Ski Resort, who holds the at-large seat on the LTVA board. “I hear people are trying to write the obituary for the LTVA. That’s unfortunate. It’s premature. We’re on the verge of having more money (to spend on promotions and a plan everyone can live with).”

Wagnon was responding to the defeat of a motion proposed by the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and presented by Debra Howard, the chamber’s representative to the LTVA.

The written motion called for the seven organizations that hold board seats to renew their commitments to the cooperative process including one member, one vote; to commit funding with no strings attached; and to reconsider all marketing plans.

“If each partner organization doesn’t agree to these foundations, we do not have what it takes to proceed,” Howard said. “It’s critical to me that this motion and the elements in it be addressed. It’s essential (that the partners) pledge to the process and funding.”

While the board members generally expressed agreement with the principles of cooperation, they balked at the motion itself, especially a time line for reconsideration of at least two marketing proposals and approval of one within a couple weeks.

“The priority, initially was to get the campaign out for the winter season. That’s shifted to get one for the community at large,” Wagnon said. “We need to look at a plan and find ways to grow the budget. If it means we have to take some more time, then let’s take some more time.”

Following the motion’s defeat, Sue Hyde, vice president of marketing for Caesars Tahoe, and Skip Sayre, director of marketing for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, presented a compromise marketing plan that would direct $1 million into Northern California advertising and $300,000 plus cooperative dollars into destination marketing primarily in Orange County and Houston, Tex.

“There are lots of great ideas in here. It’s a balanced plan and makes sense,” Wagnon said.

“I want to see the plan detailed out by the marketing committee of the LTVA (and brought to the board by that committee, not a so-called renegade committee),” he said.

After rushing through the remaining agenda, including appointment of sales director Terry LeBan as interim executive director, board members returned to discussion of the marketing plans.

“A few more weeks of shaking this (marketing plan) out and we’ll have a pretty good (marketing) effort; not perfect, but good as long as it’s measurable and based on reason and facts,” Wagnon said.

“It’s a political environment, but we still have to make good marketing decisions.”


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