My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)

Carl Ribaudo
Tribune columnist

Local Musings

Have you ever noticed how things change slowly until they don’t? That same kind of change is happening to many tourist destinations, South Shore included. Many destinations have felt the impact of climate change, the pandemic and peak tourism, or overtourism, as it is called.

Carl Ribaudo

Tourism destinations and residents have felt the impact of just too many visitors at one time that create traffic, congestion and crowding to the point the current trend is not sustainable. We have all experienced this impact on weekends or certain times of the year. It’s a situation that is getting worse over time.

How have tourism destinations and attractions responded? Looking around the country at different destinations and attractions, there appear to be various tools and strategies that have emerged. Underpinning these new management approaches is a fundamental notion of supply, demand, and pricing made possible with the advance of technology and automation.

The two key strategies to keep your eye on are dynamic pricing and reservation systems. Dynamic pricing is pricing that changes based on demand. This concept has been used by airlines and hotels for years, and you see other businesses adopt dynamic pricing systems. The most significant has been Disneyland, which has demand-based depending on the day and expected business level. One could envision seeing a variety of demand-based pricing applications in the future. Restaurants could have one menu pricing for weekends and another for mid-week, the same for bike rentals or boat rentals. One can only imagine the potential for demand-based pricing in a tourism destination.

Another related element to demand-based pricing is paid parking. While not a new concept, many destinations implement paid parking in high-demand areas. Truckee has implemented paid parking in their downtown as well Reno. In short order, the casino core will be implementing paid parking here on South Shore. Camp Richardson, Ski Run Marina, and others already have paid parking. Many hotels throughout the country, including those in outdoor-based destinations, have paid parking. Paid parking as a management tool will become increasingly important

A second key element is the increasing use of reservation systems. Last year Vail Resorts had a reservation system to manage COVID but did away with it this year, but others are moving ahead. Yosemite National Park is implementing a “peak time reservation system” from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. May through September. Closer to home, Sand Harbor is looking for a reservation system for summer. Once a reservation system is in place, it can be managed using demand-based pricing. Want to park on a busy Saturday afternoon? That could be one price. Want to visit on a Wednesday morning at another price. These tools have been in place in different parts of a destination for years if you think about it. But it’s only now they are coming into a widespread application.

The convergence of technology and public policy will continue to play an increasing role in managing demand in tourism destinations, and it will likely change the nature of a visitor’s experience. Think about it, one day (in the future); you will drive up to a destination in a predetermined GPS parking spot. If you are skiing or going to an attraction, you will not need to pay for admissions at the ticket window because you will have already reserved your ticket, and it is on your phone. The same thing for your hotel check-in, there is no check-in, and you go to your room with your room key in your phone. Want to go for a hike? You will have already paid for that hike when you made a reservation for a parking spot at the trailhead.

Finally, you may or may not eat at a restaurant when you are hungry afterward. You may order online and pick up your food or have a delivery service drop it off. The pricing you pay will be adjusted to the time and day you use it. All this technology already exists it’s only a matter of time before it gets to a critical mass.

Ready or not, changes are coming.

It is a Wrap

What happened to winter? One big storm in December, that’s it. The special event center will be a welcome addition.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at

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