Tourism remains driving factor for Tahoe, Truckee economy | SierraSun.com

Tourism remains driving factor for Tahoe, Truckee economy

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

Lake Tahoe has long been a destination for tourists, driven by scenic views and Tahoe's clear waters.

Truckee's recognition as "coolest ski town" in 2018 by Matador Network showed the town could compete with huge ski areas such as Mammoth Lakes and Revelstoke, British Columbia.

And it appears, when it comes to tourism, the hits just keep on coming.

Truckee's visitor center continues to welcome increasing numbers of people, with 221,067 visitors in 2017. That's up from 196,886 visitors in 2016, despite receiving significantly less snowfall in the 2017 season.

According to a Dean Runyan Associates report, the tourism industry in Nevada County supplied 3,670 jobs and generated $12.5 million in local tax revenue last year, an 11 percent increase from 2016. The report also stated that visitor spending reached $343.7 million in 2017, increasing 5 percent from the previous year.

In 2015 Truckee established a Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District to "broaden appeal of Truckee" to increasing the occupancy rate and raise Transient Occupancy Tax Revenue, according to a town staff report.

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The town collects 2 percent of the District assessment on behalf of the chamber of commerce, putting those funds to work in sales and marketing efforts. In its third year of a five-year term, there's currently a $732,611 fund balance as of June. According to a staff report, that funding is being set aside for "potentially larger investments of venues."

"The TBID is in a position right now to really get some funding to create something that could really be a nice legacy," Colleen Dalton, brand communications director for the Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District, said at recent town council meeting.

Alongside Truckee, Placer County is actively working to utilize Transient Occupancy Tax funds for improvement projects.

Of the 10 percent of TOT funds collected in eastern Placer County, 2 percent is allocated toward priority projects in the Tourism Master Plan, including trail construction and visitor facilities. However, officials say there is currently a $100 million funding gap for these projects.

"We rely on the tourism master plan that identifies priorities around capital investment in our community," Erin Casey, Placer County principal management analyst. However, she said, "We can't fund all of the priorities with the funding we have."

Following the lead

This year Placer County, along with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, polled voters in the area about a possible local tax increase. The results "showed solid backing" for a transient occupancy tax increase and "more moderate support" for an increase in the sales tax rate, according to Casey.

She said Placer County is still in the process of collecting data before a tax increase would be proposed. She said once they have more information they'll convene with local business and community organizations such as the Resort Association.

"Ultimately it has to be a strategy that is led by and embraced by the community," said Casey. "The county can't get involved in those things; it has to be driven by the community and so we're really following their lead."

This year, the Capital Projects Advisory Committee, a 13-member group tasked with evaluating project proposals in the region, reviewed and evaluated 29 grant applications totaling over $36 million in Transient Occupancy Tax funding requests.

The committee ultimately presented 18 projects to the board that were all intended to promote tourism and align with the county's Tourism Master Plan.

These include the completion of the Resort Triangle bike trail that would connect Truckee, Tahoe City, and Kings Beach, visitor facilities, including a visitor center at Donner Summit, a performing arts center at Northstar California and parking facilities and bike repair stations in Tahoe City.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.

BY THE NUMBERS

2017 Nevada County tourism data

3,670 — Total number of tourism jobs

$343.7 million — Visitor spending in 2017

$12.5 million — Tax revenue generated