Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fairfield's On Its Way To "Great Things"

Fairfield's On Its Way To "Great Things"
By Christine Cube

Mr. Jelly Belly has a prime seat on Interstate 80.

In case you've missed it, Fairfield has a big, new sign going up along the freeway at the Auto Mall. The theme is "Fairfield - Gateway to Great Things."

The sign is to be the first step in a huge push to grow a tourism industry in the city.

Tourism speaks closely to my heart.

I covered it for many years in Washington, D.C. and Fairfield's theme reminds me a lot of how other cities brand themselves.

For example, we know Philadelphia will always be known as the "City of Brotherly Love."

Virginia's Alexandria is called the "Funside of the Potomac" and it will always be that "Virginia is for lovers."

D.C. itself is branded "The American Experience" and who doesn't "love New York?" (I know I do.)

Fairfield's "Gateway to Great Things" has loads of potential.

Mostly because I think it's right on.

Candy Pierce, executive director of the Fairfield Hotel Association Inc., said the theme was picked because Fairfield is a regional hub.

It's a gateway to places like Napa Valley, it's between to San Francisco and Sacramento and it's got a unique draw - not to mention Jelly Belly, Anheuser-Busch and tours.

"We have Suisun Valley, we have great art, theater and music," Pierce said. "We're also a great location for people to visit. We're a great destination; a great place to stay."

Tourism officials in Fairfield expect the new sign along I-80 to help generate revenue for a future California Welcome Center. Within a couple weeks, the sign will be painted and fitted with electricity and a snazzy screen for local businesses to place ads.

Revenue from the reader board could generate as much as $1 million or more annually to market the city and help with the operation of a welcome center. Tourism and city officials currently are negotiating for a prime spot also at the Auto Mall.

The revenue, combined with Fairfield's 10 percent hotel tax and 2 percent special assessment on every room (this began last year), amounts to 12 percent on every hotel room night sold in the city. Put simply: Real money to plant into marketing and tourism here.

That's just the beginning.

Last spring, the hotel association, in partnership with the city, adopted a tourism promotion marketing plan created by consultant Strategic Marketing Group.

Parts of the plan include special ad placements like a full-page feature in the California State Automobile Association VIA magazine and hotel specials tied to Fairfield events like the Tomato and Candy festivals. Tourism officials also have become members of national travel associations and groups in hopes to place Fairfield on the itineraries of bus tours and other travel programs.

It's all a work in progress and the wheels definitely are starting to turn.

When I first came on board with the Daily Republic six months ago, I wrote a Fairfield tourism story and a reader scoffed at the idea of the city's success as a bonified tourism destination.

Let's hope there is more community support for this lucrative industry than not.

Reach Christine Cube at 427-6934 or ccube@dailyrepublic.net

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