Tourism experts: Selling millennials on Lake Tahoe key to region's future

by Placerville Newswire / May 12, 2016 / comments

Image: Kayakers paddle around Zephyr Cove. Speakers at South Lake Tahoe's recent Tourism Forum suggested the future success of Tahoe depends on authentic experiences and cultural offerings. With a growing millenial market, it will also be important to appeal to a changing tourism demographic. Rachid Dahnoun / Tahoe South.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Change or get left behind. It’s a motto for business, for the tech sector and apparently also for tourism marketing.

In a seemingly ever-growing global travel industry, the status quo just isn’t enough to keep pace. Simply put, people have more options than they used to with expanded world travel and affordable airfare.

For a state like California, which annually relies on roughly $120 billion in tourism revenue, it is an important consideration — especially when Lake Tahoe visitation is down overall, in part because of increasingly competitive neighboring markets closer to the Bay Area.

What adaptation means for the future of Lake Tahoe was among topics addressed at the annual Tourism Forum on April 26 at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, hosted by Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

“Consumers don’t just wake up and come here,” Visit California vice president of marketing Lynn Carpenter told an engaged audience of local business owners and travel-industry guests. “They need to be sold.”

According to experts like Carpenter, the key to attracting travelers is now about “the experience,” restaurants, activities and the culture; just showing pretty mountains in a commercial won’t do it anymore.

That’s why the California tourism marketing group has switched focus toward individual stories and experiential accounts.

Social media and crowd-sourced websites like are also the new standard. Along with them, gearing more toward a growing tech-savy millennial demographic is the future.

Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau say millennials (age 18-34) now number around 75 million in the U.S., recently passing baby boomers.

Visit California also reported that millennials visit California more than any other state; and when younger generations make travel decisions, they rely increasingly on word of mouth through social media.

“It’s an experience world,” said Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Consultants, at the forum. “You need to view the world through those eyes.”

While a big lake and mountains are still a draw, they may no longer be enough for Tahoe.

“We’re not the only game in town,” he said of other areas expanding their recreation offerings. “The lake doesn’t hedge our bets.”

Ribaudo, whose company provides consultant services to destination areas like Tahoe, was among speakers at Tuesday’s lunch.

He further explained that cultural offerings and infrastructure improvements are trending up, but still need improvement at Tahoe’s South Shore.

He described recent projects like...

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