NORTH TAHOE, NEV.—Late last year, Fodor’s published its 2023 “No List”—the places travelers should avoid in the new year. Included on the list was Lake Tahoe, a place where Fodor’s says “nature needs a break” primarily because of the effect that sediment and emissions from heavy traffic have on the lake’s clarity. According to The Mercury News, “The Fodors article quoted Andy Chapman, President and CEO of Travel North Tahoe Nevada (TNTNV) as saying tourism and hospitality leaders are trying to find ‘creative solutions to take cars off the road’ without telling people to stay away.”
With 15 million visitors each year to the Tahoe area, minimizing environmental impact is an ongoing challenge. Chapman told Green Lodging News that Lake Tahoe’s recreational resources have been popular for generations, but when the pandemic hit the number of people heading for the beaches, the hiking trails, and sledding hills reached new heights.
“When the lockdown was loosened following the pandemic and travel re-opened, visitors wanted to get out into nature and explore new places,” Chapman says. “Lake Tahoe, being a popular destination, saw a massive influx of travelers, which had a negative impact on our natural landscape. As a tourism industry, we have never said to ‘not come to Tahoe’. What we ask of our guests is to visit responsibly. Understand that this region is also home to our residents, take care of your trash, demonstrate mindful travel, be fire safe and stay educated on any circumstances that can impact both visitors and residents.”
Amplifying Responsible Tourism
When asked how TNTNV will respond if tourists come in very large numbers again in 2023, Chapman said, “Tahoe locals have strong views about the benefits and drawbacks of tourism. TNTNV’s role can and should be shaping tourism partners and behavior to the benefit of the local community. As responsible tourism is amplified and tourists make educated visits and understand their impact on the local community, all users within the Tahoe Basin will have a much better experience.
“TNTNV focuses on promoting high-value visitations that support local businesses and enhance the local community,” Chapman adds. “We invest in destination infrastructure that only enhances the Tahoe experience. We continuously work to educate visitors and residents on the power of tourism and how it provides both economic and lifestyle benefits. TNTNV strives to be a leader of destination stewardship.”
One step TNTNV has taken to encourage responsible tourism is to ask visitors to take a Traveler Responsibility Pledge, which is as follows:
- Become a steward of Lake Tahoe. We ask that they leave conditions better than they found them, support the small businesses that keep the region strong and use public transportation.
- Respect the environment. We ask them to stay mindful of the environmental impact of all their actions.
- Stay educated. We urge them to keep aware of weather conditions and safety protocols and learn travel tips before they arrive.
- Keep wildlife wild. We encourage them to observe wildlife from a respectful distance and avoid the temptation to feed wild animals.
- Stay fire safe. We ask that they stay vigilant, pay attention to fire restrictions and take great care when cooking outdoors.
- Demonstrate mindful travel. We encourage them to act with kindness and neighborliness while also honoring health and safety protocols.
When asked about the pledge, Chapman said, “Travel North Tahoe Nevada recognizes how special this community is and strives every day to make it a better place for residents and visitors alike. By encouraging destination experiences that support a thriving economy, we enhance our community’s character and foster a continued legacy of sustainability and stewardship. We understand that preserving and enhancing our community is no easy task and are continually dedicated to putting in the time and effort required while providing current support and ideas for future improvement.
“It is essential that TNTNV educates its visitors on how to be a responsible traveler to Lake Tahoe and steward of this region,” Chapman adds. “We encourage longer stays in Tahoe, exploring off the beaten path, supporting local businesses and respecting the local environment and culture.”
A ‘Know Before You Go’ Guide
TNTNV also produced a Know Before You Go Guide that provides tools and resources for a great Tahoe experience.
Chapman says Lake Tahoe has a long history of facilitating sustainable travel by locals and tourists alike. He cited public transit as an example. TNTNV, working with private and public partners in Nevada and California, helped bring to reality the free ride-sharing service known as “TART Connect.” Visitors and residents alike left their cars behind—saving untold amounts of air pollution—and instead relied on TART Connect as well as the TART public transit system.
“Microtransit has been on the rise in Lake Tahoe in recent years as an innovative solution to alleviate the region’s traffic gridlock and reduce greenhouse gases,” Chapman says.
TNTNV works with partners such as The League to Save Lake Tahoe, the UC Davis Environmental Research Center, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and The Tahoe Fund/Take Care Tahoe—in addition to hundreds of public and private-sector leaders—to enhance the sustainable management of the destination.
“To cite one other example, Travel North Tahoe Nevada led in the effort to replace the traditional Independence Day fireworks show over Lake Tahoe—a source of noise, trash and air pollution—with this year’s “SkyShow” created by a fleet of drones,” Chapman says. “The show, which drew raves from residents and visitors, showed the possibilities for events that keep environmental wellbeing in the forefront.”
Budget Allocated for Sustainability Initiatives
Travel North Tahoe Nevada works closely with partners such as The League to Save Lake Tahoe, the UC Davis Environmental Research Center, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, the Tahoe Fund, and Take Care Tahoe on initiatives to support a sustainable travel sector. A full 10 percent of the budget of Travel North Tahoe Nevada is dedicated to sustainability initiatives on an annual basis.
Last October, during the three-day Outdoor Media Summit sponsored by Travel North Tahoe Nevada, more than 150 media experts from across the nation discussed best practices to engage their armies of social-media followers and speak directly to government leaders about reduction of the environmental impact of outdoor recreation.
“While several conference sessions focused specifically on tactics to reduce the pollution of waste plastic, participants reminded us that sustainable outdoor recreation involves numerous actions, great and small, that make a significant difference,” Chapman says.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.