Shoulder season is underway: Couples mark the new round of visitors
Ed and Nancy Duran need only consider their own business when the couple considers getting away for an extended weekend – and that suits Tahoe tourism officials just fine.
The Durans, who run a Bishop resort, specifically travel in the fall because they know the crowds have thinned, children have returned to school, the weather remains warm and the relaxation of the Lake Tahoe beach life awaits them. This week, they booked the corner unit of the Timber Cove Lodge for four nights so they could leisurely saunter out to the beach. The empty nesters – whose 18-year-old daughter just moved out of the house – are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary with a beach getaway.
“Where do you get a good meal around here?” he asked, while sitting in a lounge chair with a drink in hand.
That question is music to the ears for Lake Tahoe’s tourism-dependent businesses. These visitors have disposable cash and spend it. Tourism officials, resorts, hotels and businesses in the wedding industry from Zephyr Cove to Camp Richardson note people like the Dugans become an ideal and typical client at this otherwise slow time of year. And some events such as the Sorensen’s Resort’s watercolor workshop on Sept. 19 cater to the crowd seeking serenity.
“What we see as the business starts to taper off is a different type of client – one who has more leisure time and spends more money. They’re definitely an older crowd – and couples without kids,” said Carol Chaplin, spokeswoman for Aramark Corporation – a concessionaire that runs Zephyr Cove Resort and the two Lake Tahoe paddle-wheeler tour boats.
Mike Bradford, who runs Lakeside Inn & Casino and serves as the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce president, said he’s noticed more retirees taking advantage of the region’s amenities. He pointed out that businesses still see customers through September, then business tends to dip around mid-October.
“From now until Oct. 20, there’s a resurgence of visitors that’s good for this town. They spend more and are easier to deal with,” he said.
No big falling off in fall
September was once known as the beginning of shoulder season when visitation at the lake plummeted. Not so much anymore, as tourists have come to realize the benefits of traveling in the off season.
“The kids are back to school, and it’s a beautiful time to travel,” said Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
South Shore disc jockey Derek Tarpey has even found this time of year ideal for weddings.
“Certainly, for my business, September is always strong. We get a large number of weddings. Things don’t really slow down until November.” he said. Tarpey serves as the Lake Tahoe Wedding Association president.
Indeed, the numbers support the notion. Wedding licenses reported in 2004 through the El Dorado County Recorder Clerk showed that only 70 fewer were issued in September and October vs. May and June – the traditional time for weddings.