Tahoe agencies preparing for busy tourism season
Special to the Sierra Sun
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — With summer around the corner and a lineup of events on the horizon in communities all around Lake Tahoe, agencies everywhere are preparing for a large number of visitors this season.
As more visitors and businesses centered around tourism come to the basin, the Center for Responsible Travel and their partners are going to be guiding regional agencies through the process of creating the basin’s first stewardship plan, Destination Stewardship. The plan aims to create an approach to tourism management that will focus on environmental, cultural, social, and economic stability.
“It is a strong strategy for bringing people together, engaging stakeholders, supporting economic stability, protecting natural and cultural amenities, and improving access for all,” said Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen. “One of Destination Stewardship’s core goals is ensuring communities, land managers, and tourism agencies are wholly invested in the decision-making and planning process.”
Work towards a stewardship plan began in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when TRPA brought together land managers, visitors authorities, nonprofits and other recreation based in sustainability.
“The successes that have come out of that coordination will continue to build this summer with ambassadors working at recreation hot spots, additional garbage management and volunteer litter cleanups, and coordinated messaging through regional marketing campaigns that encourage transit use and off-peak travel or recreation site use,” Cowen said.
While work on the plan is done throughout the summer, CEO and President of the South Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Carol Chaplin and her team are preparing for visitors while also keeping COVID in mind.
“We continue to monitor not only COVID variants, but other economic pressures on travel such as gas prices and compressed air service schedules,” said Chaplin. “With that said, our lodging partners are reporting strong interest and bookings. With a robust event schedule, we hope that helps attract visitors, however, we are also promoting mid-week stays to fill nights typically a bit softer than weekends.”
Multiple summer concerts and events are set to kick off soon in the basin, including the 2022 Lake Tahoe Summer Concert Series, Live at Lakeview, and the Heavenly Village Summer Concert Series, and agencies are expecting the same, if not more visitors than last year.
“You have to keep in mind that wildfire impacts were significant toward the end of the 2021 summer season and we certainly hope that’s not the case this year,” said Chaplin.
Fire safety preparation is set to begin now, with the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit encouraging those who visit and live in the area to understand what a red flag warning is (days with strong winds and low humidity) along with preparing homes and properties.
“Remember, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ the next wildfire will occur, it’s a matter of ‘when’,” said USDA Forest Service PIO Lisa Herron.
Wildfire prevention begins with knowing where burning is prohibited. Locations include Desolation Wilderness, Meiss Country, or any other backcountry location; beaches or picnic areas; or anywhere else in the forest. Propane appliances with on/off valves are allowed with a valid permit.
“Summer always brings heavy uses of beaches and hiking or biking trails,” said Chaplin. “Outdoor recreation is very much in demand. Our iconic Emerald Bay will continue to be an attraction.”
Other places that Chaplin expects to be highly impacted this summer include The Shops at Heavenly, the gondola and areas for mountain activities, with the busiest times for businesses beginning in late June and continuing into mid-September.
With the housing market slowing down around the basin due to rising interest rates on homes and lack of inventory, and occupancy rates going up, it’s important for agencies to continue to build a balance for the tourists and residents this summer.
“Tourism is a $5.1 billion industry in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Chaplin. “Our community members have built their lives and careers around visitor spending. But, as we move forward celebrating this industry, we also want to make sure our visitors help us in our efforts towards destination stewardship that preserves our wonderful environment, assets, and activities. There is a collaborative effort towards this initiative that involves not only the visitor bureaus, but land management agencies, the TRPA, Tahoe Fund, and more.”
Promoting travel to the area is important to Nevada Lt. Governor Lisa Burkhead, who is the Tourism Chair as well.
“It’s really important for me in this role to promote all of the incredible outdoor spaces that we have in our state, including Tahoe, which happens to be one of my childhood favorites,” said Burkhead.
Burkhead’s advice to any visitors coming to the area is to prepare ahead of time and stay organized with scheduling, due to the large amount of traffic that can build up in the basin, especially on the South Lake side.
She also recommends being present in the moment while traveling, and really appreciating the outdoor space.
“There were a lot of challenges during the pandemic, but some of the positive things that came out of it was this sense of really appreciating our outdoor space,” said Burkhead. “And we certainly have a lot of incredible outdoor spaces in our beautiful state, and Lake Tahoe comes to the top of the list for me.”
Miranda Jacobson is a staff writer with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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