It all started with a decline in tourism brought on by a series of natural disasters. California’s brand was tarnished and visitors stopped coming. Between 1989 and 1994, we lost 17 percent of the domestic market share… $70 million and 70,000 jobs every year. In 1998, we had 9.8 percent of U.S. leisure trips and in 2011, we had 11.2 percent.
Thanks to representatives from the tourism industry coming together to create the California Welcome Centers (CWC) and aggressively marketing tourism, the percentages continue to rise. We too can see an increase in tourism if representatives from the local Chambers of Commerce, Humboldt Lodging Alliance, Convention Bureau, Humboldt Made, Film Commission, Humboldt Bay Tourism, local government and the community work together with a common goal in mind. “Heads in beds! One more night!”
The efforts of the California Tourism Industry have made California a top-of-mind travel destination. It is the job of locals to partner and teach tourists that while San Francisco is north compared to Los Angeles, “they ain’t seen nothing yet” till they get to the North Coast! The 19 California Welcome Centers (CWC) with ours being the only one on the North Coast, have a $50,000,000 budget with 81 percent coming from the rental car industry and only 8 percent being spent on administration. Welcome Centers saw 1.5 million visitors last year… an increase of 10 percent.
Television and film continue to be the foundation of Visit California’s brand advertising. Celebrity Ambassador Rob Lowe, along with other featured celebrities in a 30-second commercial and the documentary Dreamland, are seen globally. Digital, mobile, print, broadcast integration as well as the above have increased unique visitors 27 percent in the last year. Consumers who viewed Visit California’s global domain are up 14.6 percent, 350,000 consumers opted in to receive the e-mail newsletter and there was an 889 percent increase in Facebook fans over last year.
The Arcata Chamber of Commerce is proud to also be celebrating 15 years as franchisee of a CWC. Thank you to past Chamber boardmembers, executives and other local supporters who had the foresight to invest in our future by becoming part of an organization that brings tourists to our doorstep. We have three Travel Ambassadors that greet our guests with a smile and professionalism. We support local crafters by selling their merchandise in our gift shop, and thanks to our team of Travel Ambassadors, have increased sales 44 percent in one year. They promote all of Humboldt County and California as well as Oregon.
With the support of the CWC we will have brochures available in nine languages. Our staff goes above and beyond to make sure that the needs of guests are met. We have new computers to provide speed in service and during the busiest season we have been open on Sundays all thanks to a grant from the Humboldt Lodging Alliance. Along with the Convention Bureau we received a grant from the Headwaters Fund that allowed us to host a successful Marketing Round Table. It was our hope and that of the Headwaters Fund that this objective would continue to coordinate our efforts in promoting Humboldt County and Precision Intermedia in Fortuna is planning to have a similar event in 2014.
What are we doing to stay ahead of the curve in promoting and increasing tourism? Below are a few things:
• Humboldt County Convention Bureau hosted 38 Chinese dignitaries with the idea of learning more about the North Coast in order to promote tourism in their home province… they had a fabulous time.
• HSU President Rollin Richmond took the initiative to bring key players together to discuss how we can prepare for and promote Chinese-focused tourism.
• For over a half-dozen years, the CWC has been going to China to establish friendships, learn the culture and encourage Chinese focused tourism in California as a whole.
• Your local Chamber Executive Director (author of this article) will be attending a conference led by CWC in February that focuses on Chinese tourism and I will share what I learn.
• All of the organizations listed in the first paragraph and others are working to increase tourism in Humboldt County and “heads in beds… one more night.”
Call the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, your local CWC franchisee, to learn more and to get information on wedding venues, event planners, caterers, concierges, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, maps, etc. and get local and state travel information for your guests and/or request we send them a packet of information for perusal prior to their trip.
Congratulations and thank you, California Welcome Centers!
“Heads in beds! One more night!”
Sandy Scott is the executive director of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, who kindly bought the local newspaper a microwave oven for its new office.