LTVA has had changes |

LTVA has had changes

Sally J. Taylor

In March, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority adopted a five-year strategic plan that will change its future focus to, hopefully, drive tourism dollars upward.

It’s not the first time the organization has changed direction.

On Oct. 8, 1992, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority underwent a one-day transformation resembling bureaucratic liposuction.

Wielding the suction tubing, the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance presented the board of directors with a plan to streamline and refocus the LTVA into a lean, mean marketing machine.

“Given the overall small budget, there was a desire to see more of it go directly to marketing,” recalled Steve Teshara, the executive director of the Gaming Alliance and the person who presented the plan. “(The LTVA) was heavily weighted on the salary side.”

While the Gaming Alliance did the pushing, everyone was ready for change. Tourism numbers had declined for five years. Even the mission statement was being questioned by the board.

From a total budget of $2 million, more than half went to infrastructure.

“It was serving the wrong master,” said John Wagnon, a member of the board of directors then and now and the vice president of marketing for Heavenly Ski Resort. “I supported that change even though two friends lost their jobs.”

The board accepted most of the 10-point plan.

To the alliance-proposed mission statement, the board added only the phrase “other recreation” so that it read: “The LTVA will attract gaming- and other recreation-oriented overnight visitors to the South Shore of Lake Tahoe … .”

A few weeks later the mission statement was again revised to decrease the gaming emphasis.

Point 10 did not pass. It proposed that the make-up of the board be reorganized to reflect funding. It would give Nevada and gaming two-thirds of the seats because about 65 percent of LTVA’s funding originated as room taxes collected in Stateline casinos.

Nevertheless, the transformation of the LTVA was dramatic.

In the following months, the 12-person LTVA staff was reduced by seven. Committees took over some of the duties previously done by staff.

Some programs were contracted out, including the toll-free reservations number now managed by BASS Tickets.

The advertising budget doubled from $600,000 to $1.3 million. More dollars were pumped into billboards, radio and print advertising in California.

Though the board accepted the change, the controversy continues to rage. Many accuse the gaming industry of being heavy-handed.

“There’s no evidence we dominate the LTVA in any way shape or form,” Teshara said. “We have one vote on a seven member board.”

“Any time you disassemble an organization, its a hard thing to do,” Wagnon said. “It was misread by the public. Everybody on the board agreed it needed to be done.”

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