What Reno airport’s recent growth means for North Tahoe-Truckee
What is RASC?
The Reno-Tahoe Regional Air Service Corporation consists of both public and private organizations working to brand Reno-Tahoe as one region. Those organizations are:
Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority
Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority
Incline Village/Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
North Lake Tahoe Marketing Consortium
Ski Lake Tahoe
Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority
Truckee Tahoe Airport
Circus Circus Reno
Eldorado Resort Casino
Grand Sierra Resort
Peppermill Resort Spa Casino
Silver Legacy Resort Casino
Whitney Peak Hotel
Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
RENO, Nev. — Reno-Tahoe International Airport served 3.4 million passengers in 2015 — a growth of about 10 percent from 2014, which is the airport’s largest year-over-year growth in 10 years.
Last year was also the first time in a decade that the airport’s passenger count increased, and that didn’t happen on accident.
A coalition of resorts, casinos and other tourism-dependent businesses has been working to increase the number of flights to Reno — and thus, increased tourism travel to the Lake Tahoe region.
“There’s been a lot of work for many years, but for the last two years in particular, there’s been a coalition that’s really come together and had substantial and material impact to commercial air service to this region,” said Squaw Valley Ski Holdings president Andy Wirth, who also is chairman of the Reno-Tahoe Regional Air Service Corporation.
RASC was founded in 2001 as a coalition of private and public organizations to contribute marketing funds as well as expertise in an effort to brand Reno-Tahoe as one region, according to the Reno-Tahoe Airport’s website.
In terms of Incline Village and Tahoe-Truckee, the corporation includes representatives from Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Incline Village/Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau and Truckee Tahoe Airport, to name a few.
Incline Village/Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau President and CEO Andy Chapman serves as the treasurer for RASC.
“Typically, our budget (at RASC) is about $600,000-$650,000 a year,” he said. “We spend all of it on air service programs and air service marketing.”
Chapman said the organization used to be known as the Reno-Tahoe Regional Marketing Committee until a few years ago when they incorporated and became RASC.
He said that having a seat at the decision-making table with RASC has been very helpful to his position at the visitors bureau, and for marketing of Incline Village and North Lake Tahoe.
“We market North Tahoe as one region,” he said. “What we do (at the visitors bureau) is determine whether we’re going to spend some of our own funds in a given market or not. We could not do on our own what RASC does for us, so it kind us allows us to get into some of these other markets.”
For example, Reno-Tahoe International Airport provided direct service to 14 cities in 2014. Since, the airport has added nine others, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas, among others.
The increase in flights, as well as marketing efforts geared toward residents in those cities, could have big implications for Tahoe’s tourism industry — at least that’s the hope.
“People that fly generally spend a lot more and stay longer,” said Reno-Tahoe International Airport CEO and President Marily Mora.
She said that while the airport is still recovering from the downturn of the economy in 2008, she’s noticed a lot more collaboration among the airport, local governments and Tahoe-area ski resorts to try and figure out how to improve business.
“There is a lot more collaboration going on with Tahoe, with people within Reno as well,” she said. “It used to be that some of the casinos wouldn’t be part of a coalition … they were more out for their own interests. Now, because I think we had bad times, there’s more of a spirit of collaboration and working together.”
She said that though there are many parties involved in trying to bring more flights to the region, RASC has played a vital role and has also paid for advertising to help ensure flights sell enough tickets to make the service worth the cost.
The tourism industry depends on air travel for visitors who spend more, since it’s known across markets a customer who purchases a flight is more likely to stay at destination longer.
But the real impact, particularly for Lake Tahoe’s tourism industry, is that air passengers are more likely to stay during the week.
Wirth — who also serves as the Chairman of the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority Board of Trustees — said that on a per-night basis, a ski customer from New York is likely to spend about $700-$900 per night with all expenses included.
“The comparative for the Marin County customer is more like $200 to $225 a day,” he said.
And while Wirth says Squaw Valley only gets about 25 percent of that income, he added it makes a huge difference for local hospitality workers who see a decline in business during the week.
The New York market, he said, is the most lucrative market because travelers from that city spend about 3 times more than local customers and stay about twice as long.
“The longer you travel, the longer you stay,” Wirth said. “And the spend patterns tend to be higher.”
There is such a thing as loving a place to death, and with the growing masses visiting Lake Tahoe every year, overtourism is a top issue.