March 19, 2024

Partnership is the only way to sustain Lake Tahoe

By: Andy Chapman, President/CEO, Travel North Tahoe Nevada

In our pursuit to address challenges in Lake Tahoe’s economy, Travel North Tahoe Nevada (TNTNV) emphasizes the vital role tourism plays in shaping it.  With direct spending of the Lake Tahoe tourism economy clocking in at just under $5 billion, producing a total economic impact over $10 billion, tourism serves as the backbone supporting small businesses, jobs, and the community in Tahoe. 

However, Tahoe’s tourism reputation is marred by negative perceptions that cast a shadow over its positive contributions. Recognizing the importance of responsible travel, TNTNV is actively working on strategies to navigate these challenges through the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship effort. This year, we begin efforts to execute on our strategic plan to bring key action steps of the Destination Stewardship Plan to life. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, we are dedicated to fostering a more responsible tourism approach to ensure the sustained well-being of our community. 

Sustainable tourism — a commitment to balancing the benefits and impacts  of tourism and the long-term well-being of a destination — allows for an economic boost; creating job opportunities and encouraging the development of small businesses, which, in turn, enhances the overall economic stability and prosperity of our community. 

Utilizing visitor generated transient occupancy tax (TOT) funds, TNTNV has reinvested back into our community in three key areas:  Transportation enhancements for residents and visitors; partnerships with key organizations delivering unique and sustainable recreational options; and investing in new and innovative programing focused on environmental and community enhancements. 

From the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society to The Outdoor Media Summit, UC Davis Science Center, Nevada Nordic, and so many others, TNTNV’s contributions go right back to supporting our local economy. 

TART Connect, the app-based, free to the user, mico transit program, is a testament to regional cooperation addressing our local challenges. TART Connect data has shown, on average, 60% of the ridership is used by full time residents. TNTNV, recognizing the need to increase TART Connect service hours, worked with our regional partners to generate the funds needed to support the service extension. Last winter season alone, TART Connect served more than 50,000 riders, a 12% increase in ridership. What’s more, 80% of TART Connect riders also report using TART fixed route services, showing that TART Connect is additive, not competitive with existing transit services. 

This is a truly regional collaboration and would not be a success without the support of the Reno Sparks Visitor and Convention Authority, the Washoe County Board of Commissioners, the Washoe Regional Transportation Commission, the Travel North Tahoe Nevada Board of Directors and our local partners who contributed significant funds for this vital community program. The two-plus year pilot program has shown the impact of the program; we look forward to continued regional partnership to maintain the program.

TNTNV’s contributions have helped create Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition’s bike maps, enabling Tahoe to become more bicycle-friendly and emit less air pollution from increased users and traffic. Funds have also been dedicated to support the Lake Tahoe Water Trail, encouraging visitors and residents to explore the region from water-borne, environmentally friendly transportation mode.

In addition, these contributions have helped local organizations with efforts like event sponsorship, marketing, operation subsidies, and various programming. TNTNV contributed to event sponsorship and funding for the 2023 July 4th SkyShow, Road to WonderGrass Tahoe, Gamblers Run Music Festival, IVCBA’s July 4th Local Heroes event, Shakespeare Lake Tahoe and more. These efforts and the efforts of our partners encourage visitation to alternative locations outside of overpopulated areas and time periods.

TNTNV is committed to allocating funds to various programs and organizations as Tahoe continues to look for ways to be more sustainable. If you have ideas, we want to hear them. 

Protecting and sustaining Lake Tahoe and the communities around the Lake isn’t a project that we can cross off our ‘to-do’ list. It’s an ongoing commitment that must be a shared responsibility among our residents, elected officials, businesses, and the tourists who visit this unique place. It is far easier to be critical of efforts like the Destination Stewardship Plan than it is to dive in and do the hard work of actually creating a sustainable tourism economy. TNTNTV will continue to do our part and look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with everyone committed to the shared goal of a thriving Tahoe.