Survey: Truckee’s image shifting; annual visitor spending is $273 million |

Survey: Truckee’s image shifting; annual visitor spending is $273 million

During Presidents' Day weekend, downtown Truckee was full of people shopping, eating and exploring. According to the survey, annual visitor travel spending in Truckee is $273 million.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

Background information

The Truckee Visitor Profile Study was commissioned by Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce. It cost approximately $8,000, with funding coming from a marketing contract with the town of Truckee to promote it as a destination. Visitor profile research is done about every three years.

Visit to view the entire Truckee Visitor Profile Survey.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A majority of recent visitors to Truckee view the town as a distinct destination from North Lake Tahoe.

This was one of the major insights found through a Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce visitor survey that could influence future marketing and development.

Of 599 respondents polled at various town locations from August 2013 through June 2014, 72 percent perceive Truckee as different from North Lake Tahoe, versus the 28 percent who don’t.

“At the end of the day, there’s only two real marketing strategies — you are either the low-cost provider, or you have to differentiate … in a way that makes sense,” said Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group, which conducted the study. “Just to be different to be different doesn’t work. You have to differentiate in a way that makes sense to the market place.”

Not being under the purview of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency helps Truckee to differentiate itself from the North Shore, he said.

“I’m a big supporter for the TRPA, don’t get me wrong, but your pace of decision-making can move much faster,” Ribaudo said during a February presentation before local officials, business leaders and residents. “So I see you guys maturing much more quicker than say we in South Shore or North Shore, which is only going to add to this perception of, ‘Wow, Truckee is kind of its own place, and its own destination.’”

Truckee as a hub

While the Chamber — which has a contract with the town to market Truckee as a destination — focuses on promoting Truckee, it doesn’t view North Lake Tahoe as competition, said Lynn Saunders, Chamber president/CEO.

“We certainly love our neighbors at the lake,” she said. “We love Lake Tahoe. It’s a huge asset to have right in our backyard. It only makes the story bigger and better and more important and more interesting.”

Therefore, the Chamber tries to show Truckee in the larger context of the region, and when the situation allows and would prove effective, collaborate with its neighbors, Saunders said.

“There’s always that question: Do you promote yourself as a destination onto itself, or do you promote the region as a large?” she said. “I think any kind of marketing is not mutually exclusive. It doesn’t mean you have to do one or the other.”

In an effort to understand how Truckee fits within the greater region, survey takers were asked what other areas they visited while staying in Truckee.

Overall, North Lake Tahoe was the most visited (89 percent), followed by Northstar (36 percent), Squaw Valley (33 percent) and Other (29 percent).

“I think in the old days, people stayed (on) North Shore, and Truckee was ‘Hey, I’m going to go to Truckee for the day,’” Ribaudo said. “I think that dynamic is beginning to change or has changed, and as this data shows, a lot of people are using you as a hub — traveling and visiting these other areas.”

According to the survey, annual visitor travel spending in Truckee is $273 million, with $214 million generated by overnight visitors.

“We’d like to be their bed base,” Saunders said. “… Stay in Truckee, experience Truckee. Let this be your base camp to adventure, and there’s a million directions you can go from here.”

Competitive advantages

When asked what attributes played an important role in deciding to visit Truckee, survey respondents’ top answers were scenic beauty, the town — its overall look and feel — and weather.

“I believe the findings of the visitor survey emphasize the importance of protecting and improving our natural environment and historic downtown,” said Tony Lashbrook, Truckee town manager.

Such findings can be used during the town’s long-term town planning and economic development efforts, he said, and are not a departure from the existing vision for Truckee.

The latest Truckee Town Council mission statement states: “Protect and enhance Truckee’s quality of life by ensuring that growth and our capital investments enhance our environmental, social and cultural character and ensure long-term economic viability.”

In addition, the survey’s findings will be considered when marketing Truckee in the future, Saunders said.

For instance, with 40 percent of survey respondents having seen or heard of Truckee online and 19 percent through social media, she can envision marketing for Truckee moving more digital in an effort to reach potential visitors.

Once here, the activities surveyed visitors participated most in included shopping (73 percent), sightseeing (71 percent) and entertainment (38 percent).

Beyond that, visitors participated in outdoor activities such as hiking/walking, snowboarding, skiing, water activities, golfing and biking.

“The survey … identified the importance of our varied outdoor activities (both summer and winter) and our unique shopping experience,” Lashbrook said.. “We need to continue to work on improving these aspects of our community to retain our edge in the highly competitive tourist market.”

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