One of the two airport shuttles ending service |

One of the two airport shuttles ending service

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune South Shore residents and visitors will see one fewer bus service delivering passengers between here and Reno.

Like its terrain, South Lake Tahoe tourism has shown peaks and valleys in its delivery of service and visitors to the area.

As transportation goes, one of the two bus shuttles operating between the Reno/Tahoe International Airport and the South Shore plans to discontinue service at the end of the month. The last day is Feb. 28.

Frontier Bus Charters, which has run the Tahoe Casino Express for 13 years, cites the squeeze of competition. It ran daily shuttles from Embassy Vacation Resort and Marriott.

“We couldn’t get a stand at the airport,” Director of Sales Tom Cheers said Wednesday of counter space to inform prospective riders of the Frontier service. “But we’re not giving up the fight,” Cheers said, adding a legal challenge could be brewing.

Frontier once stopped at the casinos, but gaming management replaced the service a year ago with another company – Amador Stage Lines.

“It will be less confusing for customers,” Amador’s General Manager Mike Abercrombie said.

It operates 14 daily departures and arrivals between 3 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for the South Tahoe Express shuttle in and out of Horizon, Harveys, Harrah’s, Embassy Suites, Caesars and Lakeside.

The service relies on BlueGo bus-service pickups at Marriott and Embassy Vacation Resort to connect those passengers to Harveys. Travelers may buy tickets online or at any one of these locations – $20 one way and $36 round trip.

“We weren’t satisfied with the service,” Lakeside’s Mike Bradford said, speaking on behalf of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance as the reason for the change to Amador.

Bradford admits having the two shuttles baffled consumers at Lakeside Inn and Casino.

Brenda Knox, who commutes between South Lake Tahoe and her San Jose company, recently spent three hours trying to secure a shuttle ticket with Tahoe Casino Express to match her flight time out of Reno. She ended up driving instead of flying.

The Gaming Alliance discussed Tuesday shelving the idea of running a bus shuttle to and from the Sacramento International Airport because of high start-up costs.

“We’re not pursuing it, but it’s not off the table,” he said.

The interest in guest services stems from increased flights at both Reno and Sacramento airports.

For one, both facilities have added on flights to and from the Hawaiian Islands through Aloha and Hawaiian airlines.

Markets in recovery

The Islands have seen an increase in the volume of passengers flying to and from the tropical paradise since tourism took a dive after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Passengers flying to and from areas west of the Rockies have shown a 5.4 percent increase in traffic last year compared to 2001. East of the Rockies the flying public goes up by 8.9 percent.

“Barring any other unforeseen circumstances, we’ve seen a full recovery. The general news is good,” Hawaii Tourism Authority spokesman Frank Haas said.

This means people are flying – but the prevailing question is: Are they flying here?

Quarterly figures of this winter’s passenger counts from the Washoe County Airport Authority are unavailable at this time.

Lake Tahoe tourism officials, who have been concerned over the level of competition, say that at least people are paying attention to the message.

For the October edition of Ski magazine, Lake Tahoe’s million-dollar Blue World campaign was named as the second most recognizable print advertisement in the magazine, readers cited in a survey. Chevy was No. 1.

Lake Tahoe was the No. 1 destination on the tips of their tongues, too.

“This is huge. These are terrific results. It says people are seeing ads and recognizing them,” said Carl Ribaudo of the South Shore’s Strategic Marketing Group. Ribaudo serves on the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority board and for Ski Lake Tahoe, a consortium of six of the largest Tahoe ski resorts.

Ribaudo said year-to-date figures indicate the inquiries have gone up 45 percent by this January compared to the year prior.

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