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Stateline resorts sport a new look

by Laney Griffo
lgriffo@tahoedailytribune.com
Hard Rock is requiring masks inside the property.
Edison Graff | Edison G / Stardust Fallout

When the shelter-in-place orders were in effect and the lodging industry was halted, the Lake Tahoe Basin was noticeably quieter. In an area where the economy is driven by tourism, there was debate on remaining shutdown for health and safety or reopening for economic survival.

With that in mind, the lodging industry looks a little different now than pre-COVID-19.

The hotel-casinos on the Nevada side were among the first to open.

Prior to reopening, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe had all public and back of house areas deep cleaned by environmental services, which are healthcare grade cleaning standards.

After opening, the Hard Rock increased the frequency of cleaning of public areas and every day the property is sprayed with a no-touch disinfectant spray.

Back of house areas now do hourly cleaning checks.

In the rooms, coffee makers, drinking glasses, magazines and collateral materials, extra pillows and blankets and amenities for sale were removed from the rooms and room service menus were digitized. In addition, occupied rooms will not be cleaned by housekeeping.

“In advance of reopening, Hard Rock released an outline of comprehensive health and safety protocols,” said Eric Barbaro, executive director of casino marketing. “These protocols continue to be implemented to ensure the health and safety of all guests and team members. The outline details enhancements to our already rigorous sanitation practices along with new social distance considerations.”

The lodging industry is getting in the swing of the new protocols and the travel industry is starting to see a slow recovery.

“We continue to see nice demand from patrons looking to escape to the lake, which offers the benefit of nearby outdoor activities and a safe resort experience with heightened sanitation policies,” Barbaro said. “We are pleased with the return to business we are experiencing and expect demand to likely fluctuate over the course of the next few months as everyone continues to adjust to our new normal.”

According to figures released by the Nevada Department of Taxation, accommodations in Douglas County only brought in $4,865 during May, down from $2.23 million for the same month in 2019.

Food service and drinking places were down almost a third with $6.6 million in sales, down from $9.7 million.

Most of those revenues are generated at Lake Tahoe.

According to Visit California, the weekly travel spending for California was down 87% in May from last year. In June, there was a 20 percent increase, which still leaves the weekly spending down 67 percent from last year.

“While I cannot share proprietary information or specific performance data related to our hotel’s business, we can share that COVID-19 is taking an unforeseeable toll on global travel and impacting the business of many companies around the world,” Murphy said.

Visit California forecasts that by September, travel will still be down 48% from last year.

While these numbers aren’t great, they are an improvement from the hit the travel industry took in March.

Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority saw a drop in revenue. The California side was down 51 percent and Nevada was down 32 percent. These numbers reflect the fact that the shelter-in-place orders came down in mid-March, so travel was still relatively stable in the beginning of the month.

“As for summer, anecdotal information from our lodging properties would include these comments: optimistic and robust occupancy (remember many properties are building occupancy from about 50 percent gradually),” said LTVA and LDVA President/CEO Carol Chaplin in an email. “Short booking window, solid mid-week stays, strong weekend business, fall bookings are also strong. This speaks to pent up demand, flexible remote work schedules and a larger range drive market up to 800 miles in radius.”