South Lake Tahoe hopes ads will lure tourists back after fire |

South Lake Tahoe hopes ads will lure tourists back after fire

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) ” With tourism suffering after the catastrophic fire on the southern edge of Lake Tahoe, local officials are hoping a radio spot and a celebrity golf tournament played near the shore will convince visitors to return.

Business is off as much as 30 percent in South Lake Tahoe because of last month’s Angora fire, which destroyed more than 250 homes, although lakeside resorts were untouched.

“The whole place didn’t burn down,” said Joe Santalla, general manager of Tahoe Keys Boat Rental.

To convey that message, business leaders recruited former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Kevin Nealon, who lives in the area, to do the radio ad. “Nightlife has not slowed down one bit on the south shore,” he says in the spot, which is airing in Sacramento and the San Francisco area.

This weekend, the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament will be broadcast nationally. It should draw attention to the Tahoe Basin by showing sweeping views of the lake and the Sierra Nevada. Former NBA star Charles Barkley, actor Don Cheadle and soccer star Brandi Chastain are among those scheduled to play.

The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and most resorts and retailers do the lion’s share of their business in July and August.

Resorts and hotels are experiencing 10 to 15 percent drop off in reservations from last year, according to Jerry Bindel, president of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association. The winter season was also disappointing because of the scarce snowfall.

“It died on January 15,” said Mark Gandt, president of Tahoe Sports Ltd. Slow sales forced him to cut his payroll by 15 to 20 percent in the past six months.

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