The search for tourism partners is spreading out |

The search for tourism partners is spreading out

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s new strategic plan defines its customers, partners and beneficiaries, thereby defining the voices that have a say in its policies.

The LTVA is looking for partners: businesses and organizations who will share responsibility for tourism and participate together in marketing programs.

“Public and private partnership – it’s a new concept,” said John Wagnon, the vice president of marketing for Heavenly Ski Resort and a member of the LTVA board of directors. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t work in a place like Tahoe.”

A number of current LTVA programs were designed for public/private cooperation. Many struggle to keep keep afloat.

Last year, one of six scheduled free-standing inserts distributed in California newspapers was canceled in order to balance the budget allocated for the program. Not enough businesses bought advertising in the multi-paged tourist resource.

Earlier this year, BASS Tickets representatives begged lodging properties to provide rooms for the central reservations system. In a town full of empty rooms, BASS didn’t have enough to offer prospective visitors.

Without participating in LTVA programs, many business owners still expect to reap benefits.

To some, transient occupancy taxes constitute their business’s advertising budget, which they entrust to the LTVA.

“I’d ask, at what point does (the TOT) become our money,” said Mike Weber, vice president and managing director at Camp Richardson Resort and a director on both the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association and the LTVA boards. “We collect it (from customers) then hand it over to the city.”

In its search for partners, the LTVA is spreading out.

Cooperative programs, especially for advertising in distant markets, could include traditionally competitive areas, according to Don Miner, a chiropractor and the chairman of the LTVA board of directors as well as a Douglas County Commissioner.

“I see a broadening of the regional response to include Reno and the North Shore, to include Carson Valley,” he said. “To enhance the contributions for the Lake Tahoe Region (we’re looking for) bigger and better and more broad participation.”

The LTVA also hopes to find more partners in Tahoe from businesses not traditionally thought of as tourism-oriented.

Because so many Tahoe residents directly benefit from tourism, other businesses from hair salons to carpenters also have more customers when tourism is healthy.

Marketing Tahoe should be everyone’s responsibility, not just the LTVA’s, said Malcolm Pribyl, a financial consultant with Princor and the former executive director of the now-defunct South Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau.

“The Kiwanis and Rotary clubs should invite sister clubs to come and visit,” he said. “Everybody should care about the tourist.”

“Tourism ripples through everything,” Wagnon said. “We’re naive in thinking everybody understands (that tourism is driving the deal).”

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