Friday, January 07, 2005

Fairfield hires a tourism director

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - It's going to be a challenge, but hotel owners and other merchants who could benefit from tourism have started to unveil plans they hope will make Fairfield a visitor's destination.

Fairfield and Suisun City already have the attractions - world-famous candy companies, vineyards and wineries, as well as an inland harbor and a brewery, according to those who want to bring more tourists to the area.

The challenge, they say, will be to advertise those resources in a way that makes people want to spend time and money in the cities between Sacramento and San Francisco.

Vacaville recently began its own tourism-based organization, and Vallejo also has one.

To do so in Fairfield, the fledgling tourism bureau needed money and a leader - two things that recently fell into place.

Earlier this week, the Fairfield City Council approved a transfer of roughly $158,000 to the group in charge of the tourism effort. And to head up the organization, a tourism committee chose Solano County resident Candy Pierce as the top tourism executive.

Both decisions, as well as the formation of a marketing plan, should lead to more exposure for Fairfield and Suisun, said Kevin Johnson, general manager of Fairfield's Hilton Garden Inn and a leader of the tourism movement.

Johnson said there will be more announcements next month, including a site for the long-planned Fairfield Welcome Center.

"We're ready to give birth to this thing," he said in a phone interview. "Everything is coming together, but there's still a lot that hasn't been finalized. For example, we're still negotiating on the land (for the Welcome Center)."

As part of the marketing plan, the tourism group will design a Web site to promote the area and put up a 60-foot sign next to the freeway to draw attention to the future Welcome Center. The sign will go up near the Fairfield Auto Mall just off Interstate 80.

The money to do those things came from a 2 percent hotel assessment tacked on to the price of an overnight stay at all Fairfield hotels. The added fee, which the city began collecting last spring, comes to about $1 for every $50 spent on rooms.

The yearly budget for the tourism group will be about $260,000. It will be less in 2005 because the fee wasn't collected for the entire 12 months of 2004.

Business leaders expect to get much more in return for the money spent to promote tourism. Because visitors spend money and then leave, tourism as an industry is even more attractive, said David Sommer, executive director for the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a desirable industry that uses very few city services," Sommer said. "And it increases the city's tax base."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

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