Friday, July 14, 2006

Solano Gets New Tourism Direction

Solano Gets New Tourism Direction
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Two new initiatives focused on increasing tourism in Solano County were announced Thursday at a tourism forum held in Fairfield.

In an effort to boost tourism revenue in Solano County, five organizations - including the Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau and the Fairfield Hotel Association -Êhave joined forces to market the county as a great place for people to visit and spend their money.

"We're all friends, and we sat down and said 'How can we help each other?' " said Antonette Eckert from the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau. "Our marketing dollars go further when we work together."

The collaboration, called the 80 on 80 initiative, is intended to highlight 80 tourist-friendly events that occur along Interstate 80.

The group has a very limited budget, but hopes to strengthen both their ties and its budget over time.

The collaboration will also give them more lobbying power, Eckert said.

"We now have a bigger voice," she said.

And the group is already testing that voice. It has requested the county conduct an economic impact study to determine how much tourism adds to the local economy. It also asked for a so-called destination audit, which would determine each cities' attributes that can be marketed to tourists.

"This would be an honest assessment of who comes here," Eckert said. "We need to take these steps."

In a sign the county might be receptive to spending money on conducting those studies, Supervisor Mike Reagan announced at the event the creation of the Solano County Board of Supervisors' Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

"This is an area we can grow in Solano County," Reagan said. "We have all these attractions other counties would kill for."

Both Six Flags Marine World and the Jelly Bell factory draw several hundred thousand visitors every year. The Nut Tree Family Park might also attract significant visitors.

Barbara Glover from the Fairfield Hotel Association said the city's proximity to Napa makes it ideally located to provide more affordably priced hotels for people visiting wine country.

"As many of you know, it costs an arm and a leg to stay at a hotel in Napa," she said.

Susan Wilcox, chief deputy director of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, also attended the tourism event hosted by the Solano Economic Development Corp. She recommended the tourism groups begin searching for government funding intended to boost tourism.

Wilcox reaffirmed what many in attendance already believed.

"I think Solano is perfectly situated to take advantage of (tourism)," she said.

Nathan Halverson can be reached at 427-6934 or

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