Visit California has reported that in 2017, state tourism generated $132.4 billion in travel-related spending as part of an 8th straight year of growth — but in a year in which responding to crises, like October’s North Bay wildfires, was part of the drill.
“That spending supported more than 1.1 million jobs while producing $10.9 billion in state and local tax revenue — revenue that directly supports services and institutions on which Californians depend,” said Gary Buffo, CFO of Visit California. Visit California is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation formally known as The California Travel and Tourism Commission, which works in coordination with California’s Office of Tourism, according to the entity.
Crisis response was the primary focus of Visit California’s work during the fiscal year, according to Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.
“From infrastructure damage in Big Sur to devastating wildfires in Northern and Southern California, communities across the state were severely impacted,” Beteta said in a statement. “In the face of these challenges, Visit California worked with local partners to pivot existing programs and spearhead new initiatives to support affected regions.”
“They couldn’t have been any more supportive than they were after the fires,” said Clay Gregory, president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley. “Basically, anything we asked them for, if they had the ability to do it, they did it for us.”
To help expedite recovery efforts following October’s wildfires in the North Bay, Visit California hosted The Grateful Table, a fire-relief fundraiser held in a vineyard on the Sonoma-Napa county line. The event brought out 500 attendees, who were served dinner by 20 chefs, including Tyler Florence of the Food Network.
The event raised $150,000 and, as a result of 50 media representatives in attendance, brought $3.3 million in earned media value, according to the annual report. Earned media is free publicity resulting from promotional efforts rather than through paid advertising.
Tim Zahner, chief operating officer of Sonoma County Tourism, said Beteta and her team quickly sprang into action when the fires broke out.
“They were one of the first people to call us and ask how they can help, as well as come out with some very innovative ideas in regards to both “open for business” messaging and recovery messaging.”
Zahner said he was particularly impressed with how efficiently Visit California’s team arranged The Grateful Table event.
“I can’t believe they were able to pull that off,” he said, noting Visit California is very large, with a national and global reach. “They were able to pivot so fast.”
Gregory said Visit California’s efforts continue to be evident in the Napa Valley.
“With their help and marketing, our revenues have been up every single month since December,” Gregory said. “It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people to get us back to where we are right now, especially when there was media on the East Coast that still thought we were down for the count.”
For Zahner, working in close alignment with Visit California makes overall sense.
“One of their core pillars is to go after the food and wine lifestyle, and we’re lucky the North Bay represents the best of that in California,” he said.
Staff Writer Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-4259.
Visit California’s annual report for fiscal year 2017-2018 showed strong economic growth in the state’s travel and tourism industry. Below are several highlights that reflect the growth.
Number of jobs the tourism industry supports
California’s revenue per available room for 2017 has reached a record high
Yearly hotel occupancy for California in 2017
Average daily rate for a room in California. The United States average was $126.72
International visitor spending, which has increased 5.1 percent year-over-year
Average weekly seats from Mexico market to California with 652 average weekly flights