Our View: Is the gas tank half full or half empty? | SierraSun.com

Our View: Is the gas tank half full or half empty?

Shoulder season in Truckee-Tahoe means that residents have paradise to themselves until the summer season kicks in and visitors return.

The downside is that the traditional slow business time between winter and summer will surely be made slower by $4-a-gallon gas. Just as the business community holds its collective breath every fall anticipating a white ” meaning “green” ” winter, we’re now forced to view the summer vacation season with the same trepidation

Will the rising fuel costs help or hinder the local economy? The answer could be akin to how one looks at the proverbial glass ” is it half full or half empty?

In today’s reality, however, the vessel isn’t a glass, it’s a gas tank.

With gas already surpassing the $4 mark in the Bay Area, millions of people within a three-hour drive of us could see the destination as an affordable alternative to a longer roadtrip to, say the Grand Canyon, or even plane tickets that are now also more expensive because of fuel costs.

But with families stretched thin financially, even that three-hour trip from the Bay Area might not compute. With gas prices going where they’ve never been before, we just don’t know.

What we do know is that tourism doesn’t just bring traffic ” it brings money ” and lots of it. On average, visitors spend $143 per day in the Tahoe area, according to a study prepared for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association by Dean Runyan Associates.

That added up to visitors spending $355 million in the Placer County portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin a few years ago.

According to the study, $128 million of the $355 million was spent on recreation, while $74 million went to lodging, $75 million for dining at restaurants and bars, and $79 million went to retail sales.

All that adds up to 9,800 jobs generated by tourism for the 15,000 residents of the Placer County portion of Lake Tahoe. Throw in relatively similar numbers for Truckee and it is clear that not only are we dependent on Mother Nature’s white stuff to bring the green, we ” as everyone else in Northern California ” are going to be tied to the gas pump.

The economy has been taking the rest of the nation for a ride over the last few months. And Tahoe and Truckee, despite a history of being fairly insulated from the world outside, will likely be dependent on how our potential visitors view their gas tanks ” half full or half empty.

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