Friday, July 14, 2006

Tourism Campaign Announced

Tourism Campaign Announced
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

Solano County's "destination marketing organizations" are doing exactly what the state's travel and tourism commission encourages: Working together to enhance economic development.
Better known as visitors bureaus and hotel associations, the organizations are set to launch a new campaign advertising festivals and events "from the Carquinez Bridge to the Yolo Causeway," Antonette Eckert, executive director of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau, announced Thursday at a tourism-related panel discussion hosted by the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

Dubbed "80 on 80," the campaign will utilize Interstate 80's electronic and static billboards to advertise the slogan and a Web site with information on 80 events along the interstate.

"We're hoping to launch on Labor Day weekend when I-80 becomes a parking lot," she told the group of business and community leaders gathered at Fairfield's Hilton Garden Inn. "People will see our message; it's catchy and easy to remember."

The campaign is a simple way for groups including the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fairfield Hotel Association - both of which tout their cities as ideal hubs from which to visit regional attractions - to work together without working against one another.

In an industry that brings the state more than $88 billion annually and employs 912,000 people, partnering is key, affirmed Susan Wilcox, chief deputy director of the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

"Our strategy is likened to that of a huge bull's eye," Wilcox explained. Prospective tourists must first be attracted to travel in the U.S., then California, then the region, then Solano County.

"If they're not thinking California, they're never going to make it to the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield," she quipped.

Failure to promote the state's assets, she said, will result in lost market share, jobs and tax revenues, "just like any other business."

Acquiring new retail and attractions to promote is also key.

Vallejo, for example, hopes to be the future home for the Battleship Iowa. Should the U.S. Navy donate it to Vallejo, it's estimated that 300,000 tourists per year would visit the ship, said Jim Reikousky, director of communications for Vallejo's visitors bureau.

Solano County's cities, said Supervisor Mike Reagan, "already have attractions that other states would kill for, and we're not leveraging that." As a connection point between the Central Valley and Bay Area tourism districts, he said, Solano County should be able to "hijack" those region's marketing dollars, "and get people to stay here."

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Solano's Got It!
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