Conference center reaches turning point | SierraSun.com

Conference center reaches turning point

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun

A new sales strategy needs to be adopted in order for the North Tahoe Community Conference Center to make money again, according to a South Shore-based marketing group.

The conference center, managed and operated by the North Tahoe Public Utility District, ran at a loss of $164,000 in the 2005-2006 fiscal year. In 2003, it created a surplus of $13,000.

According to the Strategic Marketing Group, which conducted a market study on the conference center this summer, aggressive marketing of the center needs to be pursued to attract major conferences and meetings.

“There’s been little dollars spent to go after meetings and conferences,” said Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group. “There is a clear lack of sales responsibility. There is no hard-core direct selling going on. You book what comes in the door rather than actively going out and finding some.”

Ribaudo and SMG Associate Roger King told a group of nearly 40 stakeholders and community members Monday that the conference center brought in 4,288 room nights, $56,000 in transient occupancy tax, and $562,000 in room revenue in the past year, for a total economic impact of $2.6 million for the area. However, the conference center only makes money from booking fees, and does not benefit from municipal subsidy, transient occupancy tax, or business improvement district funds that could potentially be available.

“Your model is radically different than the standard model that is out there right now,” King noted.

Ribaudo and King recommended that the public utility district partner with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association or hire a sales manager to actively pursue bookings. They also suggested that the PUD seek funds from Placer County.

“We need to move to break even as soon as possible,” King said, noting the center needs to come into the black within 18 months. “This is the point of attack that needs to be addressed. Opportunities are slipping through the cracks all the time.”

NTPUD Board President Lane Lewis said the board needs to have another meeting with the community and stakeholders to discuss solutions.

Steve Rogers, NTPUD general manger, at the end of the meeting distributed to participants discussion points that need to be addressed by staff, first to develop recommendations to the conference center committee, and then to the full board.