Hotel Room Booking Numbers Down By 20 Percent

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We've known for months that the state of our economy was having some negative effects on tourism in the Truckee Meadows, but until now, we didn't know just how bad things had gotten.

Thursday morning, the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, or RSCVA, announced a nearly 20% decrease in booked hotel reservations for June and July, two of our normally busiest tourism months of the year.

It's events like "Street Vibrations" that help bring people into our area, in hopes that they'll stay a few nights. Each hotel room that's booked has a lodging tax, and that tax goes toward funding many different entities, one of them being RSCVA. Now that the amount of money coming in is severely decreasing...soon, something may have to go.

It's day two of Street Vibrations and this parking lot in front of The Atlantis isn't even a quarter full. Bob and Deki Victorino ride in every year, but say for the first time, money is an issue.

"We usually stay through Saturday morning and then head out. This year, we're only staying until Friday," said Bob.

"We had friends who didn't come because with the way the economy is and work. They couldn't afford to take time off this year," added Deki.

And for every person who stays home, that's one less hotel room, and that much more of a decrease in the total room tax revenue for the County. For local tourism officials, that money makes up two-thirds of their overall budget.

"We are going through a very tough time in the economy," said Marketing Director for the RSCVA, Michael Thomas.

Thomas says the budget goes toward funding 20 different special events in our region, including the balloon races, and the river festival. It also helps pay for upkeep of facilities, such as the convention and event centers, as well as the home of Reno's popular rodeo.

He says no decisions have been made yet, regarding cutbacks, layoffs or closures, but that everything is now on the table.

"When you have a decline in revenue, you have to look at everything you are spending money one."

The loss of revenue is a double-edged sword for the R-S-C-V-A. They're losing money on hotel rooms...the very same money that's used to help lure people in, hoping they'll book one.

The Victorino's say Street Vibrations is one event they wouldn't miss, but this year their trip was just a little shorter, and getting here was just a little harder.

"We kind of save up vacation days and money to be able to do this. It's a special event for us," said Deki.

In June, the room tax generated $22 million, which is 20% less than June of 2007. For RSCVA, this means a loss in revenue of around $3.7 million.

Tourism officials say they're looking very closely at where each dollar is order to figure out what will stay and what will go.

The RSCVA's CEO Ellen Oppeneheim, already figured out one way to cut costs. She deferred a 17 % incentive bonus to her triple-digit salary, saying it would be inapprorpiate to accept it, given the state of our economy.