Opinion: It’s been a very good year for tourism on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore
Tribune guest columnist
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority was created to attract visitors to the area year-round to help sustain the local tourism economy.
It does that by promoting the area’s brand: a premier, adventurous, contemporary destination in a setting of timeless beauty, offering non-stop recreation and entertainment day and night. The LTVA staff of 10 full-time employees including visitors center specialists is overseen by a volunteer board of directors. The organization is funded by the South Lake Tahoe Tourism Improvement District on the California side and the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority for Nevada.
We utilize extensive market research, constituency input (local lodging, recreation, attractions, retail, and government) and industry best practices to guide the development and implementation for every element of our overall strategic plan to reach targeted markets. A marketing committee provides experience, direction and input regarding research, budget allocations and creative direction. Programs such as online and traditional advertising, digital, social media, special events, trade shows, and public relations all work together to reinforce the brand to engage visitors to stimulate travel, ultimately supporting the community.
Research indicates our strategic initiatives have been successful with increasing numbers of visitors throughout the year. We saw a 3-5 percent increase in lodging occupancy as well as 7 percent increase in average daily room rates year over year, a reflection of marketing efforts and a strengthening economy with upward trends in retail, dining and gaming.
South Shore’s ongoing renaissance of new lodging, renovations, restaurants and attractions has been a major theme of public relations, resulting in substantial exposure. Media coverage has appeared in influential regional and national outlets including USA Today, Men’s Journal, and New York Magazine. Media have visited to see the transformation in projects like the $60 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, $24 million MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, $12 million at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, $8 million at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, and $10 million at Ridge Tahoe. In addition, plans are in the works for the $100 million Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe, $25-30 million Zalanta Resort in the Château, Tahoe Beach Club, Regan Beach and Shops at the “Y.” It’s important to note that projects like these generate environmental gains.
LTVA continues its strong presence in the Bay Area and Sacramento markets, and this year expanded its summer advertising budget to San Diego. We’re confident that summer 2016 will further secure our position. For the winter season, destination messages will be targeted toward the greater Los Angeles area.
The much-anticipated El Niño is forecasted to bless us with favorable winter conditions. LTVA has developed a flexible media schedule in both Northern and Southern California to exploit that opportunity with changeable digital message systems targeted to mobile communications and social media channels. The Southern California launch begins in December to take advantage of an earlier travel planning decision window.
From a global perspective, and in partnership with the Nevada Commission on Tourism, our international representation expanded this year to include China, with ongoing efforts in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico and Brazil. In the last year we’ve hosted international media visits from all of these countries.
The responsive Tahoe South website introduced a year ago now allows users an optimized view on any device with landing pages in six languages. A destination overview brochure was produced in seven languages. We’ll continue leveraging these global expansion opportunities through our relationships with Travel Nevada, Visit California, and Brand USA.
The launch of jetBlue’s non-stop service from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Reno-Tahoe International Airport represented teamwork and combined media outreach efforts with many agencies. This was another major milestone for the region, which should result in opening a larger portion of the east coast as an emerging domestic market.
Iconic, high-profile events like the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Stage 1 and Stage 2 bike races attracted over a million network television viewers, raised awareness of our destination internationally and reinforced a strong branding message to our target audiences about the area’s recreational opportunities. And the Tour is returning in 2016 with both men and women’s stage races.
The American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament was extended for another seven years, further proof that Tahoe South offers exceptional venue for major events and entertainment options on and off the lake. Area nonprofits received $115,000 in proceeds from 2014’s tournament with a similar amount expected for 2015.
LTVA has supported the success of numerous special events including Operation Sierra Storm (where TV meteorologists broadcast live from Heavenly/South Lake Tahoe to major markets across the US), Heavenly Holidays, and the SnowGlobe Music Festival. In addition to positive media exposure, these events provide appealing attractions for Tahoe South visitors to return while providing “first-timers” a chance to discover the abundant good times available in our region.
It’s been a very good year in South Tahoe, with a stronger economy through effective marketing, more collaboration, partnership, investment, improvements, attractions, amenities, and a combination of careful development and environmental planning.
Carol Chaplin is the executive director of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.