Survey: Sharp decline in South Shore lodging |

Survey: Sharp decline in South Shore lodging

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / California lodging numbers show a slow June for South Lake Tahoe, down 7.7 percent in occupancy.

For an industry under the microscope with talk of how to fund it, South Lake Tahoe tourism has been a tough nut to crack this summer.

With the exception of a few lodging stories like the Black Bear Inn and Embassy Suites reporting a phenomenal season, state numbers back a shivering concern over tourism dollars in Tahoe’s busiest season.

The concern began after a cold, snowy May.

The California Hotel and Lodging Association has released a survey showing that, at a drop of 5.6 percent from May 2004, South Lake Tahoe had the second-largest decline in occupancy, following Monterey at 6.4 percent. The South Shore booked 45.6 percent of its rooms, while the state showed a 3 percent increase with 68.4 percent occupancy.

In June, Tahoe had a more troubling statistic – the worst of the 27 regions surveyed – with a lodging decline of 7.7 percent. California’s rose 4.8 percent from 2004.

Some lodging properties from the Lakeshore Lodge to the Best Western reported a slow Fourth of July holiday weekend. Many lodging managers dropped their minimum stays.

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“I’ve been here 20 years, and I’ve never seen so many vacancy signs over the 4th,” said Eric Eymann, who runs the Station House Inn. Eymann serves as the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association president and as a board member of the tourism promotion business improvement district. The BID concept was developed by the lodging association and chamber of commerce. It was approved by the city in February and designed to offset marketing cuts to the two groups amounting to $753,000 in a two-year period because of budget constraints.

“They don’t come if you don’t ask them,” chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace said Wednesday, attributing the tourism drop to the lack of marketing dollars.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s central reservations phone line reported call volume, room nights and gross revenue ending the fiscal year in July was down 22, 26 and 32 percent, respectively.

Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, pointed out there are up and down sides to the tourism picture this summer.

“Summer was off to a slow start,” he said of June.

But 1.8 million hits on the agency Web site in July may make the summer and fall look more promising. Of those, 48,000 were counted as “unique” visitors – meaning Internet users going to the site for the first time.

The tourism agency’s recess ad showing summer fun in Tahoe will end this month. Kaler said collateral material ranging from drink coasters to posters will soon be available promoting the Blue World. There’s even talk of a “Blue Year’s Eve” promotion in December.

The winter heats up for the California Travel and Tourism Commission, which is finalizing a television campaign that may show images of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

The commission is celebrating the restoration of half its budget reduced a few years ago by the state. It’s been operating on private funds, kicked in by 5,500 businesses in a statewide tourism assessment district.

Lodging room tax collections constitute 21 percent of the city’s $21 million general fund.