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Time to look at bigger marketing picture

Tribune Editorial Staff

Marketing Lake Tahoe as a tourist destination is a big deal in this town. Millions are spent each year encouraging Joe Traveler to come to the South Shore, stay a few nights, drop a few dollars at the casinos, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and ski our slopes.

Where we spend those marketing dollars largely determines their effectiveness. Do we throw our money at new markets or stay on the conservative side and continue to target Northern California and the Bay Area for life-giving tourism?

That question has been batted about for many years, but recently the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance through a letter by Mike Bradford tossed a monkey wrench into the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s $800,000 campaign to focus on Joe Travelers living in Orange County.

Bradford said that by unanimous vote the board of directors for the Gaming Alliance in light of gaming revenues that are dropping up to 3.5 percent a year, “We support a focus on marketing in Northern California only; we do not support the inclusion of Orange County as proposed in the current LTVA Marketing Plan.”

The timing of the letter is suspect considering the LTVA has been developing its new long-range focus that developed into an Orange County campaign. Now, with the newly formed Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority holding its first meeting tonight, the Gaming Alliance suddenly comes forward and cries status quo. The same people on the Gaming Alliance will hold control over the TDVA, so the message is clear: Continue spending our marketing dollars in Northern California, even though gaming revenue declined all the while promotions have focused on Northern California.

It seems a waste of time and energy to have the LTVA use consultants and study the feasibility of enticing the Orange County market without actually doing so. After a whole year, the Orange County campaign has been put on hold. Another year gone and nothing accomplished.

This action supports a disturbing trend in this town. There are so many chefs in the kitchen that we can’t finish baking a cake.

What does this last-minute shift in policy say about politics in Lake Tahoe? How much more bang for the buck do we get in Northern California if we divert the $800,000 from Orange County? How much has been wasted in time and money?

According to an LTVA study, the South Shore casinos continue to spend $2.8 million a year advertising Tahoe in Northern California while visitation and revenue remains flat. New markets have been identified in Houston, Dallas, Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Chicago, not to mention Orange County.

Isn’t it time we took a risk on those markets instead of going back to that same dry well?

We aren’t suggesting ever abandoning promotional efforts in Northern California, where most Tahoe day visitors will continue to come from, and neither does the LTVA. But if it’s broke, we need to fix it. And focusing our efforts in other fresh markets may be just what our sputtering economy needs.


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