Summer tourism season heats up
Those who make their livelihood on tourism are banking on hot weather in the flatlands expected this week to spark the summer season traffic at Lake Tahoe.
Lodging and campground bookings have sputtered a bit this spring into Memorial Day weekend, but picked up steam fast as early as last weekend, days before summer officially begins on Wednesday.
Most agree a handful of factors are at work in spurring the leisure market. First, the weather makes Tahoe beaches, trails and patios inviting for those flatlanders looking to cool off.
Second, high fuel prices makes Tahoe attractive to those Bay Area and Sacramento travelers looking to save money at the pumps. This is opposed to people “coming from a few states over,” South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Jerry Bindel said, after surveying the lodging establishments around town.
Thirdly, procrastination drives those last-minute calls to book a room or campsite. The window between the time visitors reserve and show up gets shorter and shorter every year.
“We’re starting to see it kick in now. Last weekend was a little soft, but it’s starting to pick up. We’re looking forward to a good summer with the (reservation) window narrowing down to two weeks for us,” Holiday Inn Express General Manager Pete MacRoberts said Monday.
Andy Chapman, spokesman of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, said a slow start through the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s central reservations line is not surprising given the trend to book at the last minute.
“We’re going to see a little shift in that business go to the Bay Area,” Chapman said, referring to the feeder markets dominating the destination visitors.
That’s the market Jim Foff, who runs the Fantasy Inn, recommends South Shore tourism officials woo.
Beginning July 1, the service provided by the North Shore tourism agency will terminate and the calls from the Blue World advertising campaign will be channeled into the South Lake and Tahoe Douglas chambers of commerce.
From there, the LTVA plans to take complete control of the function when it takes over the South Shore visitor centers from the chambers.
“We expect a seamless transition,” LTVA Executive Director Patrick Kaler said.
Kaler added the $2.4 million South Shore tourism agency will rely heavily on Web hits of http://www.bluelaketahoe.com to expand the markets of visitors. Last April alone, the site received 58,213 visits, compared to 37,679 for the same month in 2005.
“It is obvious that the LTVA has seen a huge jump in our spring visits and (first time) visitors to http://www.bluelaketahoe.com over last year, which hopefully will translate into bookings and overnight stays for the summer season,” Kaler said.
Campground managers are expecting the same thing. Camp Richardson Resort spokeswoman Missy Springer said that after having a flat May, bookings are up 10 percent in June.
California State Parks campgrounds are even with last year, parks Superintendent Hayden Sohm reported.
California Land Management, the agency handling the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds at Fallen Leaf Lake, Bayview and Nevada Beach, reported the latter’s 56 sites are 80 to 90 percent full in July and August. Fallen Leaf’s 206 campsites are half full.
“We’re getting a lot of inquiries now, and we’re (completely) booked for the 4th (of July),” Wilma Raynes said.