As we navigate our way forward through this pandemic, the overriding concern that must remain top of mind is public health. COVID-19 is among the health issues that should be addressed, but we must also weigh the non-COVID health consequences, including increased rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and suicide, all exacerbated by job, housing and shelter insecurity. If we allow more of our community to slip into poverty, the long-term public health consequences will be severe. There are inadequate resources to combat the desperation being brought about by the pandemic and its economic consequences.
While the past three months have been exceedingly difficult for our community, I have also seen incredible perseverance and strength. Due to frequent collaboration among local stakeholders and constituents, business owners across multiple industries are working together to make certain North Lake Tahoe can rebound from a near three-month halt in operations. The NLTRA continues to create space for vital conversations among the business community through town hall meetings and industry roundtable discussions, while advocating at the state level alongside Placer County to move toward the reopening of tourism, the very life blood of our community. Business reopening toolkits outline key resources for businesses to open safely, including state guidelines, checklists developed by Placer County, and COVID Compliant messaging for customers. Large quantities of personal protective equipment have been sourced at bulk rates for local businesses, and regional signage has been placed in key locations to reiterate public safety precautions.
Our community is certainly engaged in the process. But it’s not only up to business owners to outline what reopening looks like. We all need to model the behavior we want visitors in our region to demonstrate when they’re here. That includes wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and adhering to other protocols designed to keep employees and our community safe. It must start with all of us.
Visit California, California’s tourism organization, predicts tourism will decline 50% this year. If that statistic holds true for North Lake Tahoe, it has potential to impact not only the business community and local employees, but the public services we all rely on. That includes public safety, transportation, infrastructure improvements, libraries, trails, public parks, and more. The level of financial loss our region could see helps to paint the picture of why tourism is so important. We need it to return.
What else can be done to prepare for visitors and ensure our community is ready to receive them when that time comes? Visitor readiness guides outline Know Before You Go expectations while encouraging responsible travel practices in our destination. Distribution of PPE gear will be available throughout summer at visitor kiosks in Kings Beach and Tahoe City. We are committed to a safe reopening so that North Lake Tahoe maintains a healthy environment for everyone – full-time and part-time residents, our local workforce, and visitors. Our business community will continue to collaborate and adjust protocols as this very fluid situation evolves.
Ultimately, visitors will return. They will frequent our businesses and contribute to our local economy. To our livelihoods. In the meantime, now is the time for community members to check local experiences off personal bucket lists. Explore your own backyard and shop local. Thank you for continuing to order takeout from restaurants, shopping online, and purchasing gift cards to local businesses. Now is the time to support activity providers, salons, and others who are starting to reopen. Our friends and neighbors are counting on us.
~ Samir Tuma is the owner of the Tahoe City Lodge and board president of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association/Chamber of Commerce/CVB