Hotel establishments learning to pivot in changing climate

Hotel establishments learning to pivot in changing climate

COVID-19 was supposed to decimate the tourism industry in summer 2020. For lodging establishments it has been a mixed bag.

Mountain Travel Symposium on Aug. 12 hosted a webinar titled Recovery Road: A Look Inside Lodging. The panel consisted of Ben Day, director of sales and marketing for Blackcomb Springs Suites in Whistler, British Columbia; Ryan Rhoadarmer, director of market management with Expedia Group; Lance Syrett, general manager of Ruby’s Inn Inc. in Utah; and Bettina Zinnert, general manager of Wengen Classic Hotels in Switzerland.

Three-quarters of Expedia guests are concerned about cleanliness of hotel rooms. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Considering many believe the travel-tourism industry will help stimulate the global economy, keeping an eye on what is happening worldwide could be an indicator for places like Lake Tahoe-Truckee that depend almost solely on tourism, as well as California and Nevada as a whole. While the basin has been busier than a normal summer, to the point many locals are complaining about the degradation of popular sites, abundance of trash not in cans, and shoulder-to-shoulder non-mask wearing people on sand and asphalt, it doesn’t mean fall and winter are going to be this busy. Today people in cities and suburbia want to get away from their homes, and Tahoe has wide-open spaces. When the temperatures drop and outdoor dining no longer sounds appealing, it’s possible the basin could be a ghost town.

Rhoadarmer with Expedia said a recent study showed nearly half of the people in the United States are interested in a mountain or lake destination, surmising they want to be some place with room to roam. But what he couldn’t answer is what that desire for mountain-lake travel is in a non-COVID year, so the statistic only worked as an interesting soundbite.

Expedia in July saw travelers searching for trips in August increase by 30 percent week over week. For September it’s 25 percent increase. This shows a growing interest in travel. What Rhoadarmer said is that it’s most important for hoteliers to know where travelers are coming from so they can market to them as well as cater to their needs upon arrival.

Syrett oversees 700 hotel rooms in Utah at a three-season resort. This time of year he is normally at 100 percent occupancy. Today he’s at 45 percent, with a rate that is 40 percent of year’s past. As the closest lodging to Bryce Canyon National Park, it has always been a popular destination with international travelers. With flights canceled, so went the room reservations. To compensate, the Ruby’s Inn group began marketing to neighboring states.

One thing the company is doing is diving deeper into data it collects as well as what it has access to from partners like Expedia. The company in 2019 had about 4 percent same-day bookings, while this year it is at 23 percent. Last year 80 percent of guests stayed one night, while this summer that figure is 59 percent. This means there are longer stays.

For Zinnert in Switzerland she said being flexible is key. With business travel no longer existing she turned the resort’s business space into a co-working space “so you get the home office in the mountains.” Normally a quarter of their business is U.S. travelers, and they are nowhere to be found this season.

While flexibility is key, she said she would never implement a policy where you could cancel at any time. That doesn’t allow for proper planning in staffing, having restaurants be stocked and other needs of a lodging property. Zinnert said their marketing people keep an eye on what is going on in other countries; as in would people have to quarantine after traveling to Switzerland. If so, that’s probably not a good fit. She admits she is fortunate with Switzerland having few COVID cases and the government being proactive.

For Day at the Whistler property, July was strong with locals from the Vancouver area. “Fifty-seven percent of bookings in the last week arrived within seven days. It’s hard for housekeeping to put a scheduled out weeks in advance,” he said.

What he is looking at now is how dismal the bookings are for winter. “The advance interest for winter is very small,” Day said. “Winter is going to be extremely scary. We don’t know if it will be just British Columbia, down into the States or from anywhere.”

Few countries are allowing people from the United States in because COVID-19 cases keep rising here.

The hoteliers participating in the webinar said deals are necessary—like a local/regional rate, and incentivizing rebookings. Showing off families in a pool, while maintain social distancing is critical. Touting cleanliness is imperative. People want to know about outdoor spaces. Educating and training staff about new protocols is key. So is modeling proper behavior—distancing and masks by staff so guests will do the same.

Kahlúa’s rich history steeped in coffee growing region of Mexico

Kahlúa’s rich history steeped in coffee growing region of Mexico

Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, Kahlúa—then blend. My favorite milkshake, my favorite way to drink that coffee liqueur.

While Kahlúa was first created in Mexico in 1936, it isn’t that popular in Baja California Sur. Sure, all the bars are stocked with it, but beer and margaritas seemed to be the adult beverages of choice. Maybe it has to do with the price or it could be because it doesn’t seem like a thirst quencher, plus not everyone likes the flavor of coffee.

But clearly someone is drinking it. According to statista.com, “The coffee liqueur, which is manufactured by Pernod Ricard, recorded volume sales of 1.6 million 9 liter cases worldwide in 2019.” Kahlúa became the No. 1 selling coffee liqueur in the world in 1980 and still has that honor today. It was first imported to the United States in 1940, and can be found in most countries now.

The company has grown from its humble beginnings. Pernod Ricard USA, according the kahlua.com, “is the premium spirits and wine company in the U.S., and the largest subsidiary of Paris, France-based Pernod Ricard SA., the world’s second-largest spirits and wine company.” The creation came about when three guys in Veracruz, Mexico, decided to blend their interests. Two were growing Arabica coffee and the other was a chemist.

The price probably has something to do with it taking seven years to get the brown liquid into a bottle. This has to do with it taking six years at times to get the best coffee bean. Then there is the creation of rum. The coffee is roasted, blended with the rum and that then sits for four weeks before bottling.

While at first Kahlúa was drank straight—neat or on the rocks, and still is—it is now common to mix it with other liquids. It was in Brussels that the Black Russian—Kahlúa and vodka—was created. In 1955 the White Russian (Kahlúa, vodka, cream) was first made in Oakland, California. Calgary, Canada, is credited with the birthplace of the B-52 in 1977—Kahlúa, Irish Cream and Triple Sec. There are countless other ways to mix Kahlúa.

History of Carson Valley comes alive at Dangberg Ranch

History of Carson Valley comes alive at Dangberg Ranch


The Dangberg estate started as a cabin and grew as the family increased in size. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

As a gentle breeze blew it was as though the secrets of days gone by were being carried in the wind. Several of the secrets about the Dangberg clan are revealed in an hourlong guided tour of the family’s old homestead on the outskirts of Minden, Nevada.

Patriarch Heinrich Friedrich Dangberg came to the area in 1856. He was 18 when he left Germany, having stopped in other locales in the United States before putting down roots in the Carson Valley. The ranch grew to 48,000 acres. While some descendants are still alive, four generations lived in the family home from 1857 to 1995. Today the site contains eight structures built between 1857 and 1917. On the adjacent parcel, which is private land, is the Dangberg barn built in 1875, a corral, and deteriorating brick slaughterhouse from 1918. All the meat the family and workers consumed was processed at the ranch. This included beef, pork, sheep and poultry.

Clothing worn by the family and other items fill one of the bedrooms. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Dangberg served three terms in the Nevada Legislature, in the House and state Senate. (His son, Fred, served two terms in the Legislature.) The elder Dangberg died in 1904 at the age of 73. He was buried at the Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City. Two years before his death the family formed the Dangberg Land and Livestock Co.

The Carson Valley might look much different if the Dangberg family had decided to settle somewhere else. They successfully diverted the Carson River to irrigate their fields, ensuring there was hay year round. The Dangbergs were some of the first ranchers in Nevada to grow alfalfa. The family developed the town of Minden in 1905, which became the county seat that same year. The old flour mill that was founded by the Dangbergs is now part of the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. They had a role in getting electricity to the valley in the early part of the 20th century.

In 1866, Dangberg married Margaret Ferris. (It was her brother who invented the Ferris wheel.) The lineage of Clarence Dangberg, the youngest of their five children, is the only surviving clan. He started the C.O.D. Garage in Minden, which today is the C.O.D. Casino.

Fred Dangberg, the oldest son, was an entrepreneur and risk taker. He allowed the V&T railroad in Carson City to lay down tracks across their land, with the terminus being Minden. The Dangbergs weren’t friendly with the folks in Gardnerville, and were able to keep the train from going that far south. He developed a gambling problem, used the company checkbook to pay off his debt, and was eventually kicked out of the company.

First the agriculture market collapsed, then the stock market, mix in family infighting and the Dangberg clan started to unravel. They were able to hold on, even recover and grow their land holdings after World War II.

The parlor is filled with a slew of items that once belonged to the Dangbergs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The ranch was sold in 1978 to ranchers in the area. A life estate allowed three remaining Dangberg women to live out their lives at the house. The last woman died in 1995.

In 2007, the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park opened to the public. Tours started that same year. It encompasses 5½ acres. More than 43,000 original items belonging to the family remain. More items continue to be added to the estate. In 2019, a freight wagon that belonged to the family was obtained from the Dayton Valley Historical Society. Restoration is ongoing, with a grant recently secured to restore the columns that were once the entrance to the ranch. Today the park is owned by Douglas County, with the site run by the nonprofit Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch. In non-COVID times events are scheduled seasonally.

Tours now are limited because of the pandemic. Mark Jensen takes people around the outside, telling stories about various members of the Dangberg clan. Photos of who he is talking about are in the barn, with more in the screened in porch. It’s easy to imagine a lazy afternoon of sitting there with a spiked lemonade or something else cool to drink. While the three upstairs bedrooms are off limits to visitors, it’s possible to tour the main house. In all, there are five bedrooms, two parlors and the kitchen in the main house. The north wing includes the ranch kitchen and workers’ dinging room. Jensen stands outside regaling guests with stories about the 4,000-square-foot home, the old grand piano, the Persian rug and all that the home contains.

The cellar and workers’ dining hall are open to self-guided tours. This is home to the oldest refrigerator in the valley and so many more artifacts from an era that seems so long ago.

Equipment left over from the ranching days sits idle along the fence. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

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Deets:

  • Address: 1450 Highway 88, Minden, Nevada.
  • Website
  • Call for tour reservations: 775.783.9417.
  • Tour cost: $10 per person.
Solving Emerald Bay congestion in final planning stage

Solving Emerald Bay congestion in final planning stage


Congestion near Emerald Bay is a problem local agencies are trying to fix. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Each year it gets more treacherous to go to Emerald Bay via the highway. People are parked where signs say that activity is prohibited. Pedestrians walk on the asphalt, which is a state highway. There is no real bike lane, yet people pedal there regularly.

For what is called one of the most photographed areas in the world, in many ways Emerald Bay is no longer an inviting place to visit.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for the last two years has been spearheading a management plan with the help of landowners and other stakeholders. An Aug. 3 webinar outlined some of the components being talked about to decrease congestion and improve the recreation experience. There will be another webinar Sept. 22 at 5:30pm. Register here. This will be to discuss the final plan, which will be available the week of Sept. 14. Details about the plan are online. 

An all-transit option (far right) has been ruled to be too expensive. (Graphic: Design Workshop)

Much of what was discussed this month seemed to be wishful thinking, yet it’s all going to be wrapped into the final plan. A dramatic increase in public transit on land and water are called for, as well as a bike lane to transport people. While that bike trail is being talked about, the soonest it would be a reality is 2045.  Even if it ever gets built, that segment is only for those in really good condition. It’s not an area most families would cycle.

Stephanie Grigsby with Design Workshop called it a “sobering exercise” to learn that transit alone could not solve the problem in the Emerald Bay corridor. Financially it doesn’t pencil out with the number of buses that would be needed, let alone the addition of park/ride areas and other expenses.

That’s why a mixed approach is being suggested. This includes managing the parking situation better. On the East Shore, which is one of the six corridors identified around the lake, the parking fine this year has been nearly doubled to $700. It will take the California Legislature to increase parking fines on the Emerald Bay side of the lake.

Key components of the Emerald Bay corridor plan. (Graphic: Design Workshop)

A reservation system was talked about, with officials pointing to how Muir Woods in the Bay Area did this and saw a reduction in traffic by 45 percent. Limiting the number of people via a reservation system, while making illegal parking costly are ways to decrease traffic. Tahoe officials want to remove the roadside parking, not existing parking lots. Safety and environmental concerns are said to be at the forefront to wanting to make changes.

One of the choke points is in Camp Richardson, especially in summer. Foot traffic getting to the ice cream shop is an issue as those people cross Highway 89.

“You can build overpasses, but people don’t use them,” Grigsby said. She said people won’t take the longer route, but instead will shoot across the roadway even if it’s illegal. (This was an interesting point from the consultant considering one of the components to the still talked about loop road near the state line is to have an overpass go from the casinos to Van Sickle Bi-State Park.)

What isn’t talked about during these webinars is how various tourism agencies and tourism related businesses continue to promote the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region as a place to come. Those promotions have worked, even during a pandemic. Anecdotal reports are that some businesses are having a record summer financially. But there is an imbalance in the numbers of people and what the current natural and manmade infrastructure can sustain. At some point the questions that need to be asked are:

  • Should there be a limit to the number of people allowed to visit the region?
  • What is that number, who determines it and how would it be enforced?
  • Should Tahoe-Truckee continue to lure visitors when there aren’t the resources to accommodate them?

Information collected from users of the Emerald Bay corridor. (Graphic: Design Workshop)

Improving winter recreation is also a component to the plan. Today most of the U.S. Forest Service sites are closed half the year, yet people are recreating there.

Buses and water ferries being considered as solutions is the norm here. Those ideas have been talked about for decades without much success. It seems like punting the problem away to say transit is going to be the answer in Tahoe. While it’s one thing to come up with a plan, it’s another to pay for those ideas. What wasn’t discussed during the corridor plan webinar was the use of micotransit, which had been a topic in May during a transit webinar.

The Emerald Bay corridor plan is a component of the larger Regional Transportation Plan that TRPA is updating. This is an endeavor that is done every five years. The Emerald Bay corridor is broken into five segments: Pope to Baldwin, Emerald Bay, Rubicon, Meeks Bay, and Sugar Pine Point.

Tahoe designed face coverings are more than functional, stylish masks

Tahoe designed face coverings are more than functional, stylish masks


Jacquie Chandler of Incline Village models how her Be Safe Bandanas can be worn. (Images: Provided)

With masks being part of our wardrobe for the foreseeable future, why not make a fashion statement? While being stylish wasn’t the impetus behind the creation of Be Safe Bandanas, it is one of the benefits. On top of that, they are so much more than a face covering, which will make them usable long after COVID-19 becomes a distant memory.

Jacquie Chandler of Incline Village is the creator of these fabric shields.

“Already grateful to Tahoe Forest Hospital and Cancer Center, I jumped in and contributed, following their mask-making guidelines. The cotton three-pleat felt limited, so when community coverage need emerged, I started to play,” Chandler said. “My daughter, Shay Strauss, a third-year med student at UNR, had been enlightening my mask making journey all along and this set me on a quest to see if there might be an intersection of protection, function, fashion and fun. Given my background in leather, I never liked the fraying aspect of fabrics, but after seeing a Lycra mask and learning how tightly woven fabrics were preferred (less permeable) in masks, I started to explore.”

Chandler was able to incorporate her daughter’s request that the covering be more like a bandana than a mask that fits tight across the face and loops over the ears. Having it available at all times and not just stuffed in a pocket was another request.

“The fibers are tightly woven, which makes it hard to blow out a candle out through the bandana mask. This is a test for permeability,” Chandler said.

It’s so easy to pull over your head and then let hang around your neck until needing to use it as a mask. A dart on the nose ensures it is centered correctly. In the back is a clasp to tighten as need be.

When not being used as a mask, they can be flipped or folded to become an ascot, headband, cool band, visor, or sun hat. On her website Chandler poses with the bandana in its many forms. “Even without a pandemic, there can be times you wish you did have a mask—coughing, changing cat litter, exhaust fumes,” she said.

Most days she can be found in her garage making the multi-functional bandana with the help of David Colley.

Designing functional accessories with an eye toward sustainability is nothing new for Chandler. While living in Santa Barbara she taught herself leather design, and for more than 15 years made a career out of it. She still is in the leather craftsmanship business with JChandler Primal Designs.

A marriage, two kids, a move to the Bay Area, then a divorce led her to the world of marketing. A job brought her to Lake Tahoe in 1999. While it didn’t last long and health issues got her down, she was back on her feet in the new millennium.

“In May 2007, a random invitation took me to the 2007 SMG Tourism Conference. After seeing the geotourism presentation, I saw a sustainability solution and by the end of the event the executive director for National Geographic Center Sustainable Destinations appointed me as Tahoe’s geotourism liaison,” Chandler said. “No background in tourism, yet a seasoned corporate story coach, and very empathic to the plight of visitors trying to access the magic of Tahoe, I looked for creative ways to facilitate the emergence of a geotourism visitor menu through activities that do no harm. Given the entrenchment of the 1960s, auto-dependent, two seasons-visitor menu this was not easy.”

Not to be deterred and encouraged by other passionate locals (Dennis Oliver, Tom Wendell, John Dayberry, John Hara, Cary Crites, Stuart Yount, Maureen McCarthy) I co-founded Sustainable Tahoe.” That passion for making Tahoe sustainable is now at the root of all that she does.

In 2017, Chandler was asked to create LASER snowflake ornaments for the Incline Village visitor center. She agreed to if they could come with a message to inspire stewardship and gratitude. That is when she and Colley started to collaborate. He is the expert on the LASER Share Gratitude Products was launched. For now, the bandanas are being sold under that line.

“I currently buy the fabrics locally, so prints are limited by availability. The next step is to incorporate Tahoe-relevant local artwork we can print on these bandanas so they keep travelers safe, while providing a unique souvenir that inspires active participation in a culture of stewardship,” Chandler said.

At some point she would like to outsource the making of the bandanas. She hopes to have a production sample available this month. “I would like to find a competent manufacturer in the watershed to support locals. Maybe with China trade choked a bit, America-made has a chance.” A provisional patent is in the works.

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Deets:

Tahoe hiking book featured in El Dorado County magazine

Tahoe hiking book featured in El Dorado County magazine

The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes is highlighted in a multi-page spread in Serrano Magazine.

Jolaine and Rob Collins hiked with author Kathryn Reed last fall to Twin Lakes, which happens to be the cover photo on the guidebook. Read the story and look at the great pictures here.

The book, which was first published in 2019, was updated in 2020. Also published this year were Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks. The latter is a combination of the first two books. The hiking book is $15, snowshoe is $10, and combo is $20. They maybe ordered through your local bookstore, other retail outlets (click on the book title for locations), Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. For signed copies, email kr@kathrynreed.com.

All books are written in narrative form, making each excursion a story. All hikes/snowshoes are rated on scenic quality and difficulty.

Chihuahuas have a whole state in Mexico named after them

Chihuahuas have a whole state in Mexico named after them

While street dogs can often be found roaming many towns in Mexico, five breeds are credited with being native to the country—Chamuco, Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, Calupoh, and Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas are small (most can fit in a purse or backpack), but they come with a big personality. They are the smallest breed of dog in the world. Ironically, they hail from the largest of Mexico’s 32 states—Chihuahua—which is 95,540 square miles or 247,460 square kilometers.

It’s not uncommon for them to act like they are a much bigger dog. While Chihuahuas are known to be extremely loyal, they don’t always play well with small children. They also aren’t a great breed to leave outdoors because birds of prey and coyotes have been known to scoop them up.

Artifacts have been unearthed in Mexico, including an Aztec rattle with a carving of a Chihuahua head on one end. A monastery not far from Mexico City also had carvings of this dog breed.

“The Aztecs conquered the Toltecs in the 12th century. Historians credit the Aztecs with refining the Techichi into a smaller, lighter dog. By the time Spanish conquistadors toppled Aztec civilization in the 1500s, the Techichi was so integral to Aztec culture it was considered one of Montezuma’s fabled treasures, once presumed lost forever after the conquest of Cortez,” according to the American Kennel Club. “But the hardy little dogs lived on in remote villages and, in the mid-1800s, when Americans began to take an interest in the breed, they found many specimens in the state of Chihuahua. So it was that this survivor of two lost civilizations gained worldwide fame as the Chihuahua. The first AKC-registered Chihuahua, a little guy named Beppie, was recorded in 1908.”

While the Chihuahuas’ roots run deep in Mexico, they are the most popular breed of dog in Germany.

Book Review: Compilation of travel essays a journey worth taking

Book Review: Compilation of travel essays a journey worth taking

Travel is such a wonderful way to escape, to learn, to test one-self. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to live vicariously through others. That’s what I did by reading “Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul: Stories of Adventure, Inspiration and Insight to Celebrate the Spirit of Travel” (Health Communications, 2002).

This is a compilation of stories by a slew of writers. It was the perfect thing to read in April while I was mostly staying at home because of the coronavirus. It seemed like my attention span wasn’t great then; all the more reason this was good reading. Normally, a book of short stories or essays is not my preferred reading. This time it worked.

Some of the writers are household names like Maya Angelou and Charles Kuralt, while most are not. Details about the contributors are included in the back of the book.

What made the book interesting is these missives were non-traditional travel stories. That captured my attention even more. Some were sad—like the child killed in a random shooting. But the story is so touching in how his organs were donated. The family was traveling in Italy when this occurred. Another was about a woman traveling to Nicaragua. She took a picture of a woman and brought it to her after it was the developed. The woman wasn’t sure who she was in the picture. She’d never seen herself before—no previous photographs, no mirrors in her world.

In many ways these are slice of life stories. The writers often shared what we might take for granted as actually being a huge deal in someone else’s life. It’s about pausing to appreciate the nuances of life, of travel, and most of all the personal interactions with others.

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