Tourism industry meets to discuss future |

Tourism industry meets to discuss future

South Shore needs to do more to increase tourism than wait for redevelopment, said Lake Tahoe marketing researcher Carl Ribaudo.

“South Shore redevelopment will not be enough. Brick and mortar alone is not enough,” Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group, said on Tuesday at the SMG South Shore Tourism Conference. “We need creativity to improve our marketing strategies.”

About 100 people attended the conference, which drew people from as far as Reno. Ribaudo hopes it’s the first of a yearly exchange of ideas and strategies that he compared to trappers’ rendezvous in the wilderness days.

“It’s incumbent upon us to learn from the mistakes that have been made and keep the destination fresh and new and vibrant.”

Ribaudo listed a variety of statistics on the economic impact of visitors from various areas, what brings them to Tahoe and what they do when they get here.

Although most people come from Northern California, he said, those who come from out of state add a comparatively larger portion of money to the economy.

“When we begin to talk about the different markets, it’s not just how many bodies are here but their economic impact, how much money they drop.

“The discussion we need to have more and more of is the value of different market segments.”

Although South Shore tourism is benefiting from a rosy economy, so far it has not received full benefit, he said.

“It’s not a huge increase (in tourism), but the numbers certainly moved in the right direction,” he said of a 2 percent increase in room nights from 1998 to 1999. “This is not a robust picture of South Shore tourism as we might like to see it. We need to keep an eye on it.”

Ribaudo pointed to two things keeping back a stronger upward trend.

Competition from other destinations includes such diverse areas as metropolitan, casino-filled Las Vegas to small communities such as Weed, Calif., which is looking to incorporate tourism as a replacement for a dying lumber industry.

Tahoe’s stagnating infrastructure also has hurt the area.

Redevelopment is working on the infrastructure aspect, but the community needs to pay more attention to how to counteract competition, he said.

Developing Lake Tahoe’s attributes into what Ribaudo called a “mass-niche” destination will help the area stand out from the competition.

Most destinations either provide a specialized visitor niche, such as scenic Mendocino, Calif., or entertainment, such as Disney World.

“Can we combine the best of both worlds?” Ribaudo asked.

He encouraged the community to better position Lake Tahoe in such areas as a culinary center and arts and cultural destination while continuing to package Lake Tahoe’s traditional attributes such as gaming, skiing and scenic beauty.

“The more interesting our destination is, the more appealing it will be to those who travel,” he said. “If we want to compete, we need to do a better job in every quarter.”

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