Wary travelers not booking hotel rooms | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wary travelers not booking hotel rooms

When one looks out at Highway 50, the real question becomes: Can we handle it if they come?

Despite a slight drop in overall holiday traffic this season, the number of people taking to the skies has grown during last year.

AAA estimates more than 1.7 million Californians will travel by air over the season that starts the weekend prior to Christmas and ends shortly after New Year’s.

The South Shore has the snow to attract the skiers and boarders, but reports of a monumental amount that has snarled traffic may scare away travelers.

“Dry pavement is as important as snow on the slopes,” said Charlie McDermid of Holiday Inn Express. “We won’t fill this weekend, and I don’t know anybody who will.”

He said reservations are down for 2002 “because people can’t get here.”

McDermid, who manages the Stateline-area hotel, relinquished his minimum-night stay to ensure last-minute visitors have the option of booking any number of nights.

Other lodging establishments have decided to do the same.

McDermid also threw out the cancellation policy, so visitors who don’t feel safe driving in the storm may opt out.

California Labor Analyst David Lyons is an example of one who plans to pump money into South Lake Tahoe’s economy. He will drive up from Sacramento Christmas Day to snowboard at Sierra-at-Tahoe and stay at Inn By the Lake that night.

“I was surprised there was no two-night minimum,” Lyons said.

Much of the tourism picture in Tahoe will be tied to the weather this weekend. With the threat of more stormy conditions, many may shy away in comparison to previous years.

“We still have availability through Christmas — more availability than usual,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock said, adding reservations remain soft but steady.

Chernock predicts three spurts of visitation — today, Monday and Dec. 27, which leads into the New Year’s holiday.

Tourism officials hope the white stuff will bring the snow riders up to the mountains.

Of the types of destinations Californians will travel to, AAA predicts 7 percent will make their way to the mountains; 33 percent to rural areas; 31 percent to the cities; 14 percent to the ocean and beaches; and 3 percent to the national parks.

More than 1.2 million Bay Area residents will travel by car, a mainstay for Tahoe tourism.

AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris believes many vacationers will take the whole week off, as Christmas falls smack dab in the middle of the week and children are on holiday breaks.

“It will be interesting to see how that pans out,” Harris said. “Obviously, the sluggish economy continues to play a role in people’s travel decisions, but based on the growing number of air travelers over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we appear to be establishing a new trend.”

The Washoe County Airport Authority expects to see several thousand travelers through Reno/Tahoe International Airport between Christmas and New Year’s.

Travelers are urged to familiarize themselves with airline and airport policies.

The parking structure may fill to capacity, so motorists are asked to arrive early — at least 90 minutes.

Other tips from the airport authority include: Limit carry-on baggage, one bag and a purse, briefcase or computer; have photo identification ready; refrain from packing sharp items.

Despite numerous warnings, airports across the U.S. seized a multitude of these objects over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com

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