Ribaudo column: Is Lake Tahoe’s South Shore at risk of overtourism?
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Here is a new concept for you: overtourism. Overtourism describes a tourism destination that gets so many visitors residents feel like their quality of life and their experience has deteriorated.
It’s an interesting concept given that I have been a tourism consultant for over 20 years, many of which I have spent helping destinations increase revenues. But something interesting has happened while we weren’t looking: California’s population has grown to 40 million, many of which can be found in core markets within a three-hours drive.
It has created a situation where the weekends in the summer and winter have gotten crowded, to the point it’s hard to get around town while the beach, lift lines and restaurants are packed.
Given the population of California is projected to grow to 46 million over the next decade, overtourism will become increasingly important. It’s not just here in South Shore but destinations all over California that have huge visitor markets and good access.
The challenge is destinations are having to go beyond the issues mentioned above; it’s also impacting affordable/workforce housing, wage rates and the ability to attract employees. At some point, these issues will morph into political issues and that opens a new can of worms.
What do we do in South Shore? It’s a complicated issue; should we be driving more weekend business? Not sure, but we need to start to have an open conversation about the issue. It’s part of a broader direction of sustainability, which involves, at least at the destination level, the need to think beyond separating trash, doing away with plastic bags and reusing hotel towels for more than a day.
It is more about understanding the “system of tourism” we have and how do we best manage it for revenues, employment and the environment. Stay tuned …
It’s great to see so many new businesses in South Shore, from the new breweries and restaurants to Edgewood’s new hotel to new sidewalks even. Imagine if we had been able to transform South Shore for the past 30 years at the pace we have seen in the past couple of years.
The Big Picture
I was on a motorcycle trip to Utah last week and while in Salt Lake City I was met with a level of poverty and sadness that has become all too common in my travels. Big city and rural places alike, everywhere you look we have become a country of haves and have-nots. The have-nots marked by mental illness, addiction, disease, and poverty. In a country with a gross domestic product of almost $20 trillion, something is wrong.
I don’t care what political party you are from, it’s hard to see your fellow countrymen living like they are. Maybe we are becoming immune to what we see. Maybe it’s just a problem that is so big we can’t get our hands around it.
It’s interesting to see the impact that Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Gov. Brian Sandoval are having on the health care debacle in Congress. Who would have thought little ol’ Nevada would play such a pivotal role?
We can only hope health care gets sorted out soon. Maybe, just maybe, Washington will put the country ahead of their party and find a real solution. NAAAAA!
Don’t miss those South Shore sunsets. The sunsets are simply the best art, attraction and activity we have and they are free.
It’s a wrap
I am good with canceling fireworks over Labor Day. In my view, it was never an effective way to extend visitors stay. Sometimes we do things because we are afraid not to and not because they work. Good call to end them.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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