Marketers upset at lack of New Year’s bookings |

Marketers upset at lack of New Year’s bookings

Marketers’ visions of holiday sugar plums are turning a little sour thanks to a quartet of grinches: a neglectful Mother Nature, scary Y2K prognosticators, innkeepers looking for big profits and spoilsports posing as print and broadcast reporters.

“It’s been one big hurt after another,” said Terry LeBan, the director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Last year started out rosy enough for even the most optimistic public relations rep. Reservations for millennium celebrations began pouring into party hot spots around the globe, including Lake Tahoe. Expectations blossomed that demand for rooms would far exceed supply.

High prices seemed justified by the economic law of supply and demand: the higher the demand, the higher the price.

Prospective Tahoe visitors discovered that they’d have to commit to a five to seven night minimum stay for a New Year’s Eve bed at a cost two to three times the normal rate.

“We lost those callers,” LeBan said.

Then news spread about the potential for anarchy if computers controlling electricity, elevators and airplanes shut down when the clock strikes the first minute of 2000. Travelers then got worried.

“Businesses told me that people inquiring about availability (of rooms) were reluctant to book because they were reluctant to fly on New Year’s Eve,” LeBan said, noting that those staying several days would not have to fly on Jan. 1. “We almost have to talk them into making a booking.”

Then there’s the weather. This year’s snowfall looks meager, especially when juxtaposed with last year, when ski resorts opened early and enjoyed an exceptional season.

If that’s not enough, newspaper, radio and television reports first scared people into staying home, then encouraged them to wait until the last minute to make reservations because, right now, supply exceeds demand and should result in declining prices.

From the news, Tahoe tourism sounds like a starving waif waiting for handouts.

Not so, say marketers who are working hard to counteract the grinches.

Some innkeepers are lowering rates and minimum-stay requirements.

Ski resort snowmaking machines are working overtime.

Besides that, winter’s a long way from being over.

“We all know our weather is subject to change at any minute,” LeBan said. “The resorts are open. We’re OK. All we need is snow between now and New Year’s and you won’t be able to find a room.”

And, snow or not, Tahoe’s a great place to be, according to Phil Weidinger, owner of Weidinger Public Relations.

“Obviously, this is one of the prettiest places in the world,” he said. “It’s a great place to spend the holidays. The ski resorts are open. The casinos are open. The roads are open.

“We’re ready to party.”

Weidinger typically fields a lot of calls preceding the holidays.

“We’ve been on the phone (about the millennium) for six months,” he said. “They want to know what’s going on now, what’s the occupancy like and is there availability (of rooms) here? We’re telling them how long the resorts have been open and what we’ve been doing (to make the holidays great).”

“We expect reservations to pick up next week,” LeBan said.

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