Fireworks and the visitors authority: Here are the facts (Opinion)

Jerry Bindel
Guest column

In response to the guest column “Let’s Keep the Fireworks … ,” from Duane Wallace and Tom Davis, I’m reminded of the adage “everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.” As current chair of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority board I would like to address each of his opinions, with facts.

Jerry Bindel

Opinion 1: The Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority decided to stop having July Fourth fireworks.

Fact: The Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority in May made the responsible decision to postpone this year’s Lights on the Lake fireworks show due to a number of factors including overall public safety, the lake-wide cancellation of fireworks shows that would cause an increase in crowding to our solo show location, and a greater concern during a drought year. There has never been a visitors authority discussion about the cancellation of future July Fourth Lights on the Lake fireworks shows, and many leaders, including myself, are in full support of future years’ shows.

Opinion 2: (The two Visitors Authorities) believe Tahoe has arrived at a point that we no longer need tourism, and there is a concerted effort to eliminate the drive-up market.

Fact: Both organizations invest heavily in tourism, through physical buildings (Event Center as an example), events (fireworks, Celebrity Golf, NHL event, Concert Series, Heavenly Holidays and more) and marketing (the LTVA allocates multiple millions of dollars each year into marketing our destination). We have in recent years moved a percentage of our marketing funding to destination marketing, in order to increase length of stay versus our Bay Area 1-2 night average stay, but have never removed all funding from our important California markets. We have strategically and successfully placed some funds in markets that have been studied as having a high propensity to travel to Tahoe and have flights to Reno-Tahoe Airport, stay longer in Tahoe, and use personal automobiles less. We have also concentrated on attracting visitors during off-peak periods in order to allow for year-round employment opportunities for our locals and more consistent business levels for our local businesses.

Opinion 3: The insinuation that “The Marketers” believe that we don’t need events in our community, and don’t have the best interests of our tourism and greater business community in mind.

Fact: One outside marketing expert in our community wrote an opinion piece suggesting that the annual fireworks may not be necessary. Our LTVA and TDVA organizations are run by a group of highly respected professionals who are mainstays in our community. The insinuation that they are nothing less than fully professional and do not have the needs of our tourism and greater business community in mind at all times is insulting at best, and offensive at worst. This group of professionals has put on some of our best events, including over 40-plus years of fireworks shows, 32 years of celebrity golf events, 18-plus concerts per year at our popular Summer Concert Series, the recent successful NHL event, Tour of California bike races, Spring Loaded events and Heavenly Holidays to name a few.

I believe it’s time for the caustic type of twisting of facts, blaming and threats of the previous opinion piece to discontinue. In a tight-knit community such as ours, there is a place for both good, solid opinions and good solid facts. And those can both be expressed in a healthy, positive manner and not in a threatening, demeaning way. We owe this at a minimum to our hard-working LTVA and TDVA marketing professionals who are also respected in our community.

Jerry Bindel is board chairman for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

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