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My View: Notes From the Front Row (Opinion)

Local Musings

COVID-19 and tourism one year later. What have we learned?

Tourism was one of the most impacted industries by COVID-19 but not every tourism destination was impacted in the same way.

Carl Ribaudo

For the past year, I have been part of a tourism think tank in Colorado, working with a range of tourism researchers and consultants with an opportunity to see the impact of COVID-19 across the country. Here are some notable things we have learned.



•Rural tourism destinations like South Shore were far more likely to see visitation and, in some cases, extreme levels of visitation. Consumers living in densely populated city areas were more likely to head to the outdoor destination. That created problems of crowding, trash, and traffic to unacceptable levels, which we experienced.

•Destinations with drive access/proximity markets like South Shore has, with Northern California, seen strong visitation. In contrast, destinations with a higher percentage of visitors arriving by air saw a decline in visitation.



•In-migration to outdoor destinations. Many locations like South Shore also experienced an increase in people buying houses and moving into the community. This was the case not just at Tahoe but outdoor destinations across the west.

•With no physical work to be at on a Monday, there were changes in the demand patterns, including mid-week shopping, recreation use, and restaurant use/demand patterns.

•There were significant changes in retail and restaurants; more consumers shifted to online retail and took out or delivery services for dining. Those that were able to adjust have survived better than those that did not.

•Special events across the country were canceled, and, in many cases, visitors still showed up, begging the question of what special events will look like in the future. The LTVA typically spends about $250,000 for the Fourth of July fireworks, last year, they were canceled, and South Shore was still packed. Do we need this in the future?

•As housing across the country was snapped up by those looking to get out of a city and into a rural location, housing supply has become challenged. The impact for South Shore is clear. As housing becomes more challenging and wage rates fail to keep pace with increasing costs, retaining employees becomes a challenge for local businesses.

With all of these changes we have experienced perhaps the most exciting bit of insight is — No matter whatever South Shore’s strengths and flaws were before, COVID-19 accelerated everything. Every issue, from crowding to housing to participating in outdoor recreation, has been accelerated. What does that mean? We need to find solutions faster than we ever have.

The big picture

There are two different approaches to extensive federal programs. The difference between the Biden plan and the Trump plan is striking in where the benefits are given.

“The independent Tax Policy Center said nearly 70% of the package’s tax breaks (Biden) would go to households earning $91,000 a year or less; by comparison, Republicans’ big 2017 tax-cuts package delivered roughly half its reductions to the top 5% of income-earners. While some economists have warned that such a large stimulus could drive up inflation, Biden advisors contend it will “reduce inequality and spark growth.” It will be interesting to see what works best.

Recommendation

Ah, the doughnut. Vilified by some loved by many. In this era of comfort food, do yourself a favor and try at least one. We have some great places making them classic as well as exotic. Check out TV Doughnuts or Glazed and Confused. Grab one and a cup of coffee and enjoy.

It is a Wrap

COVID-19 has impacted this community and others across the country, and as much havoc as it caused, it would be a missed opportunity to return to get back to the way it was.

The pandemic offers us a pause to think about what changes we as individuals want to make in our lives and collectively what changes our community wants to make. As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic was an accelerator of our community’s good things and our community’s flaws. We should take a moment and learn.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. you can reach him at carl@smgonline.net.


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