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Tahoe resorts boost efforts to woo skiers from Mexico

JOHN SEELMEYER

Ski areas at Lake Tahoe are stepping up their marketing to consumers in Mexico, hoping to recapture business that was lost to Colorado resorts in recent years.

“It is definitely a growing market for us,” says John Wagnon, vice president of sales and marketing at Heavenly and president of Ski Lake Tahoe, a lake-wide promotional group.

One indication of the growing importance of the Mexican market came late last month when the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association inked a marketing deal with Jackson Marketing in Mexico City.

The marketing firm will pitch ski resorts in the north Lake Tahoe region to travel agents, the wholesalers who put together travel packages and the media in Mexico.

Middle- and upper-income consumers in Mexico spend heavily on travel and like to ski, says Andy Chapman, director of tourism at the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

Best of all for ski operators,Mexican travelers typically spend seven to 10 days at a location, helping to fill hotel rooms and ski lifts during otherwise slower weekdays.

At the same time, however,Mexican travelers typically like to see several destinations during one trip.

That’s why the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association partnered with the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau in its deal with Jackson Marketing.

Visitors to the ski slopes, Chapman says, are likely to spend a few days in the city as well.

North Lake Tahoe resorts think the availability of direct air service to Sacramento International Airport from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, gives them a good shot at gaining a larger share of the Mexican ski market.

Both Heavenly and Ski Lake Tahoe see the Mexican skiers as their No.

2 international market trailing only the United Kingdom and Wagnon said much of the marketing effort focuses on wholesalers who create ski packages.

Improved air service into both Reno and Sacramento supports those efforts, he said.

About 15 years ago,Wagnon said, the Mexican market was “very strong” for Lake Tahoe ski areas, but the business fell off as Colorado resorts launched a concerted marketing push into Mexico.

The state government also is putting some of its muscle behind the push into Mexico.

The Nevada Commission on Tourism this year launched a tourism office in Mexico City in partnership with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

As that office was opened, Lt.

Gov.

Lorraine Hunt noted that Mexico is the No.

3 international tourism market statewide.

She said Mexico presents “huge growth potential” for Nevada’s tourism industry.

At the same time, state tourism officials say patience is needed.

It may be three to five years, they say, before results of their efforts to build the Mexican market can be quantified.