Central Coast Tourism Council Meeting Results

Kindle Voyage ad using "Road Trip Theme"

If an Amazon ad can quote the Central-Coast resident John Steinbeck, certainly the CCTC can as well.

The Central Coast Tourism Council had an all-day meeting in Ventura, California on March 26, 2014. Key presenters included Lynn Carpenter, VP of Marketing for “Visit California” and Carl Ribaudo, Principal of Strategic Marketing Group. Following are some of the key take-aways.

• “Visit California” will have its budget doubled over the next three years. There is a good chance that its usual grant of $30K to CCTC will also double over that time.

• Visit California promotions will rest on “Five Pillars”: Family, Food/Wine, Arts, Outdoors and Luxury.

• Even though “International” makes up only about 6% of visitors, they account for about 19% of the tourism dollars spent.

• Visit California’s six “Tier One” markets will continue to be: US, UK, Australia, Mexico, China, Brazil. (These have permanent offices and receive the most promotional dollar spend.) Tier Two Markets are: Japan, South Korea, Germany, France. Tier Three Markets are India, Scandinavia, Italy and The Netherlands.

• The California Central Coast scores very highly as a Destination of interest to potential visitors from the UK and Canada; two of the key target markets for California.

• Partly because of its growing clout as an international destination, the CCTC was encouraged by Carl Ribaudo of Strategic Marketing Group to develop its own co-op programs and offer participation in these programs to other destinations in California, instead of waiting for other California destinations to offer coop programs to the CCTC.

• The CCTC was also encouraged by Carl Ribaudo to de-emphasize marketing its “features” (events, wine food, activities etc.) and instead emphasize its “benefits”. Work to emphasize the experience – “It’s not the destination, it’s the ride” /  “Sense of place”, “Highway 1 means something different to everyone” / “Tell us your Highway 1 Story” etc.

It was pointed out that John Steinbeck, Jack Keroac and Henry Miller (and other famous writers) all wrote extensively about their wonderful experiences on the Central Coast. (Note the recent print ad for the “KindleVoyage” – shown above- found in the April 13 edition of Forbes Magazine.)

• This suggested new promotional orientation was positively greeted by the attendees and implementation was to be discussed at the Board Meeting immediately following the conference. “This would include targeting the “low-hanging fruit” that could be rapidly implemented.

• This new concept will still keep #TheOriginalRoadTrip tagline. There was agreement to de-emphasize “Highway 1” terminology outside of California, since it has little recognition outside the state.

• The Membership / Web Committee (these two committees will probably be merged) discussed this new promotional orientation. It was suggested that this new promotion would allow the Centralcoast-tourism.com website to “own” the concept, especially if people mention two or more locations in their positive reminisces. This, and other implications will be discussed in future committee meetings.

• The Marketing Committee will probably be renamed the International Marketing Committee, since that is its emphasis.

• Since the marketing plan will need to be revamped, there will probably be a new 1-day workshop, with committee meetings, before May 1.


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Good, but still needs improvement

Visit California recently published the Smith Travel Report (STR) for full year 2014 for the State of California. As always, interesting results when looking at the results for the Central Coast and  it sub-regions vs. other regions of the State.

For comparison’s sake, let’s compare to last year’s analysis.

Feb 2014 I wrote: Overall, the key measurement of RevPAR (Revenue per Available Room) for the state as a whole increased a very nice 8.6% for the year as a whole, helped by a 10.5% increase in room demand for the month of December. 

Full year 2014 results are even better: California as a whole had an increase of 10.6% in RevPAR in December, though room demand increased just 5.9% in December.

Feb 2014 I wrote: The Central Coast had an even nicer increase in room demand of 13.6% in December, but lagged the state increase in RevPAR by only increasing 7.5%. One assumes the improved economy and lack of rain in December helped increase nonbusiness travel in December.

2014 results: Room sold in the Central Coast as a whole lagged: up just 3% in December, with the state average in crease of 5.9%. The increase in the December RevPAR lagged far behind the state as a whole – even though the Central Coast was up 8.0%, the state average increase was an incredible 14.9%!

Feb 2014 I wrote: The four sub regions of the Central Coast had fairly similar results RevPAR for the year as a whole. Oxnard/Ventura increased 6.3%, Monterey / Salinas increased 7.0%, Santa Barbara / Santa Maria increased 8.0% and San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles increased 8.5%. 

2014 Results: The four sub-regions showed a bit more differentiation in RevPAR for 2014. Oxnard/Ventura increased 11.9% (almost double the increase of last year!), Monterey / Salinas increased 8.7%, Santa Barbara / Santa Maria increased 11.1% and San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles increased 9.5%.

Feb 2014 I wrote: Part of the relative weakness of the Central Coast seems to be increased business travel, which is a relatively small proportion of the vacation-oriented travel destination of the Central Coast. RevPAR in San Jose / Santa Cruz increased by 14.1% for the year, San Francisco / San Mateo increased 12.9%, and Oakland (nobody’s idea of a vacation destination) RevPAR increased 11.9% for the year. 

2014 Results: RevPAR in San Francisco Bay area  increased by 12.9% for the year. (The other areas are no longer reported separately.) So still teh business story?

Feb 2014 I wrote: And as for the “comp set” (competitors) for the wine oriented Central Coast? Napa Valley RevPAR increased 11.4% for the year, and Santa Rosa increased 17.0% – double that of the Central Coast as a whole! What’s the secret to their success? 

2014 Results: Napa fell to earth with only a 6.3% increase in RevPAR for the year, and Santa Rosa had a 10.3% increase – similar to the Central Coast Regions. Of course, Napa’s average ADR (Average Daily Rate) is $274.98 – more than $100 above Santa Barbara’s $171.77 rate, and almost $95 above Monterey’s $180.08 – the two highest ADR’s of the four Central Coast regions.

So net, net? Central Coast region doing well; other regions in California doing even better on average. So once, again a “B” grade for the year. Thoughts?

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SMG Consulting – “2015 Tourism Outlook” Now Available – Free

SMG Consulting for Destination Marketing Organizations

SMG Consulting – well known on the Central Coast of California as insightful Tourism Consultants for Destination Marketing Organizations – has just released their 2015 Tourism Outlook. This report is available on their website as a free download. You can also watch and listen to the Complimentary  Slideshow, narrated by Carl Ribaudo, SMG Principal.

The study focuses on three key trends: Climate Change, Demographic Change and Tourism Funding. Listen and learn that “It’s not all about wine tasting” and be introduced to “parkour”. (I had never heard of it before this report.) So watch, listen and learn about these topics and much more.

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Facebook Promotional Posts “Phase Out”

Facebook Logo

Surprise, Surprise – Facebook wants you to Pay to reach your fans.

Facebook announced last Friday (11/14/14) that it would be phasing out free promotional posts. (See article in the Nov. 15-16, Wall Street Journal, page B3).

The reality is apparently a bit more complicated, and we won’t find out the true impact of their algorithm change until it goes into effect in January. Apparently blatant “buy now” will be discouraged in Facebook posts.

I have great sympathy for Facebook – businesses often seem to expect Facebook to provide its services for free; it is paid for by advertising after all. Facebook can’t show every post that a person might be entitled to, so they have to winnow to what Facebook feels / knows is most likely to be appreciated by the user.

I do hope that the non-profits I help out are not hurt by this change. Posts about shows (especially with video clips) are extremely popular.

An analyst for Forrester Research was even quoted yesterday on CNBC that businesses should even consider stop advertising; according to him, most ads did not perform well.  According to him, Facebook should know by now what ads worked, so he was blaming Facebook, not the advertiser, for the poor results. This seems strange to me – I see a lot of bad print ads in magazines and stupid TV commercials; I don’t blame the magazine or TV Network – I blame the advertiser.

At the end of the day, have your Facebook posts be interesting to real people, and design them to be good promoted posts, because that may be the best way to insure reach in future. While some posts go viral for unknown reasons, the basics are clear – a good hook of interest to readers, a good photo, a good video and a simple and easy call to action. Need anything more?


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Pinterest Integration with Business Marketing

Michaels In-Store Catalog

Michaels uses Pinterest in Creative way to Increase Sales

This past weekend I came across what I have to be a good integration of social media and marketing. I had to buy something at Michaels, the crafts store. Turns out Michaels had just held a special “Make it with Michaels Pinterest Party”.

This Pinterest Party included the following elements:

• In store booklet with ideas, “how to” directions, and approximate priding. (The book was not specific to the store, that all stores could use the same book, or the details of the specific store could be imprinted on the front.)

• In-store coupon on the back of the booklet, good only for the 5 hours (the three hours of the party, plus one hour on each side of the event.

• In-store assistance on finding the components, and advice on assembling.

• Request that people take a photo of their end result, and then post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, complete with the #MadewithMichaels hashtag.

• Multiple in-booklet references to a specific Michaels page on Pinterest: www.Pinterest.com/Michaelsstores.

• Multiple references to the Michaels website, also with craft ideas.

Admittedly, Michaels seems a natural store to promote Pinterest, but other businesses could be creative and “borrow” the ideas here. What about a a special winery tasting room or gift-shop  event with creative ways of using their gift items, or wrapping their wine bottles as gifts? Be creative. Women into crafts are likely to visit and post to the business’ websites, Facebook pages. Pinterest pages etc.


Posted in SLO County Restaurants, SLO County Wineries, Tech Tip - Social Media, Tech Tip - Website | Comments Off

Overlay Tourism Promotion District for SLO County?

Question Marks

What could the Central Coast do to increase market share?

The San Luis Obispo Tribune just printed a major editorial (Sunday, November 9, 2014; page B6) in support of a county-wide Tourism Business Improvement District. If enacted, there would be a 1% surcharge on all lodging bills in SLO County; this would net the “BID” (Business Improvement District) about $3 million per year at current rates. This would be in addition to the current Tourism BID districts that exist in most areas of the county.

Certainly, the money would help greater promotion of SLO County. Most visitors to SLO come from within California, and California is one of the most expensive media markets in the USA, if not world. As many blog posts have pointed out, SLO County tourism is NOT growing as fast as the rest of the state.

Nevertheless, one wonders about the full ramifications. As mentioned, most cities, and indeed most of SLO County, are already represented by BID’s. With overlapping BID’s, who is responsible / to blame for increases and decreases in travel?

The editorial mentions that the new BID would be responsible for representing all the many tourism draws (Hearst Castle, beaches, wine country etc.) However, most BID’s already promote them anyway – distances in SLO County are not all that great, and the BID’s want to hook onto what they know will attract visitors.

Still, at the end of the day, LOTS of money is needed to promote SLO County. And it would be nice to see one organization with overall responsibility. This organization would also be the perfect one to act as the Film Commission for SLO County and encourage more filming here.


Posted in SLO County Attractions, SLO County Lodging, SLO County Restaurants, SLO County Wineries, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Tourism Destination Marketing on Pinterest – Revisited

The November 3, 2014 issue of Forbes Magazine has a very interesting article about Pinterest “Social Media’s New Mad Men” by Jeff Bercovici. (Note – the online version of the article has a different title.)

Pinterest Icons

Crack For Women aka Customers

The beginning sentences of the subhead offer some of the key insights: “Facebook monetizes the past. Twitter the present. Pinterest, by organizing what you might do or buy in the future.”

The article does confirm the trend since Pinterest’s inception that 80% of the users are women. These people “pin”  (i.e. post) images they come across on the web that appeal to them, be it of shoes, dresses – or travel destinations. The idea – per the article – is that posting implies intention. The spin of the article is that while Facebook may know you like to travel, pictures a person posts of a specific travel implies interest in travel to that location, even before they “Google” about that location. The skew towards women helps tourism marketing, as women are the main travel planners for ccouples and families.

From my personal experience, I do know that these posts – unlike Facebook – have “legs”. That is to say, the posts have a life, long after they are pinned. Many months ago, I “re-pinned” (which means I pinned onto my own boards photos already pinned by someone else) a batch of wonderful travel photos of Germany. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive notification from Pinterest that someone has  has further repinned one or more of these photos.

So you marketers of travel destinations (which includes the entire Central Coast of California) , get your best destination photos onto Pinterest ASAP, since organizations can directly upload to boards they maintain. And do NOT forget to imbed text declaring the source, so that if the image is endlessly re-pinned, the specific location remains clear. Do this on both the images you directly upload, as well as images on your website that people may want to pin.

Posted in Santa Maria Tourism, SLO County Attractions, SLO County Lodging, SLO County Wineries, Tech Tip - Social Media, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Got Union Pay?

(And no, this article is not about the argument for raising the minimum wage. Explanation to follow in just a bit…)

The One and Only Credit Card for Visitors form Mainland China

Arrange to Accept this ASAP!

The October 25, 2014 edition of the Los Angeles Times  had an article on the strong growth of international tourism in the United States (page B4).

Quoting a U.S. Department of Commerce report, international travelers spent an estimated $150 billion in the USA in the first 8 months of 2014, so will assumedly total about $225 billion for 2014 as a whole.

The article further points out that the three main ports of entry were New York, Miami and Los Angeles. (Not mentioned in the article, but one has to assume that San Francisco can’t be too far behind LA.)

The real spin in the Los Angeles Times article is the massive growth in tourism from China, with the biggest growth in visitors. Per the article, most stores in the upscale “Beverly Center” now accept “Union Pay”, THE bank card for China. (“THE” as in monopoly.)

So local businesses that cater to visitors should make sure that that they can accept payments  form travelers who want to use it for payment. Otherwise, they may shop / eat / stay elsewhere.

Per the informative Wikipedia article on Union Pay, the “Discover Card” orgnaization in the USA has an arrangement with Union Pay, so that any business that accepts Discover can accept union pay.  Worth discussing with your credit card processor … Soon!

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California Regional Tourism Trends Continue – Not Good News for SLO County…

Beautiful Historic Building in Ventura

What is Ventura’s Mystery Attraction for Visitors?

California Tourism has now published the monthly Smith Travel Report (“STAR”) for the month of September, withYear-to-Date Stats for the first three quarters of 2014.

I feel / sound like a broken record. The San Francisco region continues to do gangbusters, with Los Angeles now doing above average as well. The all important “Revenue Per Available Room” (aka RevPAR”) increased 10.5% for the first 9 months in California as a whole vs. the same period last year.

The SF/ Bay area RevPAR is up 13.2%, and LA is up 10.8%. The  largest increase YTD was for the Vallejo / Fairfield / Vacaville area – up 14% for the period. The next-door region of Napa was up only 5.9% – go figure?

The Central Coast region continues to underperform. As a whole, RevPAR is up 9.6%. However, of the four sub-regions, San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles  is up 8.9%. This result is slightly above the Monterey / Salinas region (up 8.0%), but below Santa Barbara / Santa Maria (up 10.4%) and way below Oxnard / Ventura (up 12.6%).

Interestingly, the STR  report now slices and dices the information by expense of accommodations. Despite all the talk of higher income people spending way more than before, the two most expensive categories (luxury and upscale price) were both up just singe digits. The three other categories: Budget, economy and mid-price – which constitute the vast majority of SLO County lodging properties- are all up over 12% each. So the weakness for SLO is NOT the lack of

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Half Year Review of Central Coast Tourism

The Smith Travel Research Report (“STR”)  for the first half of 2014 is now available on the Visit California website .

Which Way for Central Coast Tourism

Which Way for Central Coast Tourism?

Once again the STR Report paint a mixed picture for Central Coast Tourism and the local hospitality industry.

Overall for the state of California in the first half of 2014 vs. same period 2013, the all important “RevPAR” (Revenue per Available Room) is up 10.7%. The Central Coast as a whole is doing better than average: up 11.2% over the same period, only bested by the San Diego area (up 11.3%) and the San Francisco Bay area (up 13.7%). As readers of this blog know, the Bay area has been going gangbusters for several year, making this latest surge even more impressive.

However, within the Central Coast, Oxnard/Ventura RevPAR was up 14.1% for the first half, Santa Barbara/Santa Maria up 12.0%, Monterey / Salinas up 10.1%,  with the San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles region bringing up the rear with a 9.5% increase (below the state average.) RevPAR growth closely matched increase in rooms sold: Oxnard/Ventura demand up 8.6%, with SLO demand only increasing 3.9%. (This is also below state average increase of 4.2%.)

Even the actual room rates rates achieved in the SLO/Paso Robles region suffer in  comparison. For the first half of 2014, average RevPAR for the state was $97.56, Santa Barbara / Santa Maria $110.57, Monterey / Salinas $106.41. SLO RevPAR was $82.20 – only barely edging out the Ventura / Oxnard area of $79.55.

It makes one wonder why there is another boom of building new hotels and motels in SLO County: below average demand growth, below average RevPAR, and below average RevPAR growth don’t exactly scream need for more capacity… Why is this area so attractive for builders???? Thoughts?

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