6/09 tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
Lake Tahoe isn’t reason alone to travel to the mountains. People come for special events. Just ask a hotel manager.
To ensure people keep visiting the South Shore during Labor Day weekend, the South Lake Tahoe Tourism Improvement District voted to allocate the $65,000 needed to keep the fireworks show.
The unanimous decision came a few weeks after the South Lake Tahoe City Council voted 4-1 to not fund the pyrotechnic display. The city had never funded this specific event before.
After that meeting, LTVA Executive Director Carol Chaplin questioned whether the council understands how large of a constituency the lodging properties are in the city.
The TID was formed a few years ago by lodging operators and vacation rental agencies in South Lake Tahoe. Nevada properties are not part of the group. Guests pay $2/night at hotels and $3 at vacation rentals.
Last year about $1.5 million was raised. This year that figure is estimated to drop to $1.1 million.
Part of the money is given to Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, part is budgeted as needed for last-minute advertising and some goes to special events.
Jerry Bindel, chairman of the TID board, pointed out at the April council meeting when the fireworks funding was nixed, that fireworks aren’t just a tourism event – that locals are on his beach at Lakeland Village on July 4 and Labor Day.
Tom Davis, part owner of Tahoe Keys Resort and marketing employee at Horizon-MontBleu, told the council, “Special events are measurables.”
Chris Minnes said the hotel he managed last year was full during Opening Days Lake Tahoe in 2008. The weekends before and after had a 40 percent occupancy.
The TID board is expected to go before the City Council soon to seek approval to raise the per night fee by 50 percent, or $3 for hotel guests and $4.50 at rentals. The board would also like to bring vacation rentals by owners into their mix.
“We will assess our own and take care of ourselves,” Bindel said. “With the city decreasing or eliminating LTVA funds altogether, we need to cover that hurdle. What is at-risk is special events.”
Raising the rates would fill coffers in lean times. It also means this money from guests goes to the tourism board and not into the city’s general fund.
The money collected from guests via the transient occupancy tax goes directly to the city. TOT, which is down 36 percent or nearly $1 million from what was budgeted this fiscal year, is one of the city’s main revenue sources.