Tahoe businesses: Smoke may cloud Labor Day sales
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — While Labor Day weekend normally signals the last hurrah of the summer business season at Truckee and North Tahoe, this year might be different.
“I think Ironman is a great way to extend the season until the end of September, which we typically don’t get,” said Tom Farina, owner of Burger Me! in Truckee.
The Sept. 22 Ironman Lake Tahoe triathlon is expected to attract 10,000 visitors — both athletes and their supporters — generating an estimated $10 million in revenue for the local economy.
“We’re super optimistic about Ironman,” said Heather River, owner of Bespoke in Truckee. “(It’s) an incredible event, and obviously we’re very lucky as a community to have been chosen to be part of it at all. I think it will definitely be a great boost.”
Rika Dyer, manager of Aviva Inn in Tahoe City, is already seeing the impacts of Ironman. Of the inn’s 24 rooms, all are booked from Sept. 20-22.
“It’s crazy,” Dyer said Wednesday. “So many people are looking for rooms, but we don’t have (any) because it’s full.”
This likely extra business comes on the heels of a record-breaking summer.
Occupancy among western resorts in July was up 5 percent and revenue was up 9.8 from last year, according to DestiMetrics, which compiles data from about 260 property management companies in 17 mountain communities in Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada and Oregon.
The increase was mainly driven by the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday, an uptick in special events and activities at most resorts and hot temperatures throughout the west, according to the company.
As for August, on-the-books occupancy is tracking up 4.7 percent compared to this time last year, with revenue trending up 10.3 percent.
“While results vary widely among destinations, many resorts have now surpassed their pre-recession performance levels and are on track for their best-ever summer,” said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, in a statement.
Locally, revenue collected from Placer County’s Transient Occupancy Tax for the 2012-13 fiscal year was the highest ever recorded. For North Tahoe, $11.3 million in TOT funds were collected compared to $9.83 million last year, a 15 percent increase.
TOT is a charge added to the cost of a room — motel, hotel, condominium — paid by visitors to the area who stay fewer than 30 days.
“Our summer business has been great,” Farina said. “… It’s our busiest summer to date in five years of business. Despite opening in a rough economy, it seems like things are on the right track now.”
“We’re hopeful (about Labor Day), but the smoke has really put a dent in (business) this week,” said Jeffrey Lauer, an employee at Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach.
While the American fire burning in the Tahoe National Forest about 10 miles northeast of Foresthill, Calif., was scheduled to be 100 percent contained Thursday, the massive Rim fire near Yosemite National Park rages on.
The blaze had grown to 192,737 acres and was 30 percent contained as of Thursday afternoon, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Heavy smoke from both fires — particularly the Rim — has prompted agencies to issue air quality warnings throughout Truckee and Tahoe, which is under a dense smoke advisory until Friday evening.
“I’m hoping (the smoke) goes away,” said Jamy Habeger, manager of North Tahoe Watersports in Kings Beach, with a chuckle. “Hopefully, we get a little wind and it blows away, or they contain it a little more.
“But, definitely, I have some concern if this is going to affect (us).”
River pointed out that the local economy is built around weather.
“If it’s clear, it might be busy,” said Chris Emmington, a bartender at Fat Cat Bar and Grill in Tahoe City. “But if it’s really smoky, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a less-than-average Labor Day.”
Others remain optimistic.
“Hopefully, people will still come up despite the smoke,” Farina said. “I’m looking forward hopefully to a solid Labor Day.”
National travel numbers suggest that will be the case.
AAA’s travel forecast this week predicts more than 2.5 million Mountain West residents will travel 50 miles or more for the three-day weekend, an increase of 5.4 percent from this time last year.
“This resurgence of travel is partly due to improved consumer confidence, which is at a much higher level than 2012,” said AAA Nevada spokesperson Cynthia Harris.
Nationally, AAA projects more than 34 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, a 4.2 percent increase compared to 2012.
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Through the final week of August and into September, Nevada County saw a surge of 488 confirmed COVID-19 cases, marking the highest number since early in the pandemic.