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My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)

Local Musings

New year, new realities. Welcome to 2021. It couldn’t get here fast enough. The South Shore, like most everywhere, has seen significant changes since the COVID-19 pandemic and has impacted tourism destinations throughout the world, including South Lake Tahoe.

While there is much optimism about the new vaccine and getting this pandemic under control, it is unclear when this will happen. Problems with getting enough people to take the vaccine and challenges in distributing the vaccine and getting people who want to take it all add to the uncertainty of when this country can return to a pre-pandemic normalcy level.

With the new year also comes new realities for South Shore. As part of the Insights Collective, a national tourism think tank, our group has identified various new realities tourism destinations might face moving forward into 2021.



I have identified three of the most impactful I think will present a challenge for South Shore in the new year.

Real Estate: as a result of the pandemic, there has been a growing demand for rural area real estate as urban residents look to escape their densely packed city residences. This will put more pressure on an already tight housing market for residents. Given South Shore challenges in building new affordable housing (expensive land challenging approval process, hard to find locations). This new reality may limit the availability of rental housing or increase the rent of rental housing available.



Restaurants/Retail/Service Sector: Current economics are not sustainable and may not end well for some. Despite many restaurants’ best efforts to move more of their business into the pick-up and to-go area, most restaurants in town were built for a dine-in experience. They have a lot of overhead that has become unproductive square footage that they now have to carry. Some restaurants have adapted and added to go and delivery services; it can be cumbersome and uneven. Some have done an excellent job transitioning. Others remained challenged. As long as the pandemic goes unabated, it will be hard for restaurants to be at unrestricted capacity. Not everyone will have the financial capability to last.

The pandemic is also having a similar impact on local retail. While all of the shop’s local programs are welcome and indeed well-intentioned, one only has to look at online shopping growth. It must be having an impact. Like many, I see delivery trucks daily on my block. Just between March 1 and July 31, the market capitalization (the market value of Amazons outstanding shares of stock) of Amazon climbed 65%

Technology Gap: Changing role and implications to “Tech-Know” vs. “Tech-Not.” A third new reality of consequence is the divide between those whose work is enabled to be completed remotely versus those who have to show up at a location for work. As those who move here and who already live here can work remotely, it creates a wide community gap. The implication being those who have technology capabilities will have advantages over those that don’t. This could also have implications with the school systems; those kids with parents who have the technology “know-how’ versus those that don’t will have a significant advantage over those that don’t.

What the pandemic has done is to accelerate the trends on the South Shore. The good things we have like outdoor lifestyle and the challenging things, like housing. Please think of the pandemic as an accelerant that magnifies our strengths and exacerbates our community’s weaknesses.

What does it mean for the South Shore? That is hard to say. More housing challenges, fewer restaurants, and a different mix of residents? One thing is for sure; we will not look like we did before the pandemic when this is over. These new realities will reshape the future, and the government agencies and the local community need to be aware and consider them as we move forward. Wishing for the past will not bring it back, so consider how we can benefit from these new realities; otherwise, it will be a long-struggling future for everyone.

Recommendation

One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is the appreciation for the outdoors. We can socially distance all day long outside. Make it a point to get outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk or backcountry skiing; get out there.

It is a Wrap

There are so many in this community that give back in so many small and big ways, not just during the holiday season but year-round to those in need. One could hardly thank them all, but all are appreciated. Tip of the hat goes to Overland Meat for their ongoing program of giving meat away on Mondays and Luca Genasci, owner of Lake Tahoe AleWorX for raising money to give to restaurants so they can make meals available for South Shore residents who need it. Some very creative ways to help this community.

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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