By Marlee Ginter

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — South Lake Tahoe recently received a significant stamp of approval in the world travel community for its safety protocols during the pandemic.

It’s welcome news for the tourist area.  While you’ll see restaurants back to cooking and customers happily ordering, it has not been steady. City leaders once told visitors to stay away because of the pandemic.

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“Yeah, it’s been a rollercoaster,” said Don Havard, owner of Chicken In A Barrel. “Some of those days were just a couple hundred dollars, but enough to keep some of the bills paid.”

But a new designation offers hope to business owners like Havard. South Lake Tahoe just earned the “Safe Travels stamp and global protocols” recognition from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

“It’s huge. It’s really a great thing for people to gravitate to.  We’re really looking forward to it and it’s really going to help out,” said Rebekah Havard.

South Lake Tahoe is one of only two destinations in the country now recognized for its safety protocols during the pandemic.  The other being Hawaii.

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Tony Lyle, the Vice President of tourism development for the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority, recognizes the weight of the designation considering entire countries are part of the program, let alone a city. Lyle says it will not only help tourists feel safe but also know what’s expected of them when they visit.

“Can you imagine going somewhere that doesn’t have protocols so that you don’t know what to expect?  So it’s a mark of feeling safe and feeling confident to travel again,” said Lyle.

And that’s something the Havard’s hope will jumpstart tourism again.

“Things are maybe not back to normal, but going in the right direction. They’re getting there, ” said Don Havard.

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Now that the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority is an ambassador for the “safe travels stamp” program, it can help local businesses get involved and receive the same recognition.  Businesses can apply on the Authority’s website.  If approved, the business can use the Safe Travels logo on its website and social media so visitors know they are following health safety guidelines.