South Shore Tourism after 11 September
There can be no doubt about the impact the events of September 11 are having on the tourism industry throughout the country. If the initial opening day of the stock market is any indication, many sectors of the tourism industry will face some challenges. But what about the challenges here in South Shore? What kind of changes will we face? As many already know, tourism is a significant part of the local economy and as such, it is critical to begin developing some understanding, some picture of what the playing field will look like over the next 6-12 months. This editorial is in an effort to begin discussing the appropriate tactics and strategies that will benefit our area.
While no one knows exactly will happen, especially given the unknown size and scope of the proposed military response, we can consider some scenarios. First, is what is happening in the short-term? As one might expect the short term will offer some significant challenges, including a reduction in destination visitors, an increase in price competition and a heightened awareness of safety and security.
No doubt the biggest impact has been experienced in the airline industry.
Recent press reports indicate the airline industry is seeking approximately $15
Billion dollars in relief related to the events of 11 September. As well, many
reports have indicated that flights are well below traditional load factors. Make no
mistake South Shore will feel some of this impact as approximately 40% of
South Shore visitors arrive via airlines. We can certainly expect to experience
some of that downturn.
Secondly, an increased level of price competition will challenge us. Many of our competitor destinations which are significantly more dependent on airline service, will be forced to cut prices as a response to reduced visitation levels. Many in the community will in turn respond. This in turn impacts city and county coffers as portions of both Transient Occupancy Tax and Sales Tax are used for public services.
Third, safety and security. Things we often take for granted are going to become much more important to the traveling public. Police and Sheriff department presence as well as individual property and business security will become increasingly important in the short-term.
Not all the short-term news is bad, as people temporarily reduce their airline trips they tend to replace them with automobile trips, as a destination this is a significant benefit we have when compared to others. However, you can bet other Northern California competitors will fight for every tourist dollar.
Looking at the longer term there are some bright spots, for we know that the recreation and travel dollar will return. Americans always seem to find some money for fun and as consumers put some distance between the events of 11 September they will return. Secondly, South Shore is on the edge of completing a major phase of redevelopment adding new lodging, retail, dining and recreation opportunities that will crate incentives for people to visit. Third, the South Shore community has faced adversity before, be it the Gulf War, road closures, and bad weather, we have come through it. Experience is a good teacher.
The events of 11 September have changed us all forever and while many of the challenges will be out of our control, the things we can control we should. Continue to provide good service, provide a safe and secure community, make smart marketing and strategy decisions and use our resources wisely. But like the rest of America we should not let terrorist acts impact or deter our long-term goal & vision, to improve the community for the visitor and local alike and to become one of the best resorts in the county. For if that were to happen we will have lost a tremendous opportunity. Stay the course!
Carl Ribaudo is President of the Strategic Marketing Group, a tourism, recreation and hospitality consulting firm located in South Lake Tahoe.
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