A new marketing district formed by local hoteliers has fueled the Visit Visalia campaign, which seeks to draw more tourism activity.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A coalition of hoteliers and marketers has spent the last year promoting one message: Come to Visalia. Now, as 2019 approaches, this team hopes to see the fruit of its labors.
Started in January by local hotel owners hoping to generate more visitor activity, the Visalia Tourism Marketing District has joined forces with the Visalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to fill rooms and boost the local tourism industry under the “Visit Visalia” banner. Demea Metcalf, executive director for both the Tourism Marketing District and the Visit Visalia project, said the District’s funding (paid for by a 2-percent transient occupancy tax on hotel room stays) has served to bolster the Bureau. This tax has added approximately $500,000 to the annual budget, while the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is able to provide $310,000.
Over the past year, the two agencies have also been working with AMF Media Group in the hopes of highlighting their strengths as a tourist destination. The pooled funding of the two organizations further gives them the ability to promote Visalia through larger media outlets.
It became clear that nearby national parks – Kings Canyon and Sequoia – were a major driver of activity.
“Our research showed that the No. 1 reason people come to our area is for the parks,” Metcalf said. “But Visalia is uniquely placed to answer that next question: “Now we’ve seen the parks, what else do we do in the area?”
This promotional effort has led the Visit Visalia project to look beyond the parks and focus inward, with emphasis put on attractions including the local arts scene. Meanwhile, despite security concerns, Metcalf added that there is great potential for agritourism at Tulare County farms.
However, this has not stopped them from utilizing their proximity to the national parks, and according to Metcalf, the District has been cooperating with Sierra Shuttle by making many of the hotels into designated stops. Running through the summer, these shuttles take tourists to the Sierra without the hassles of parking and traffic.
According to Samantha Rummage-Mathias, chair for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the purpose of Visit Visalia this year has been to lay down the foundation for tourists to come next year. As such, it has yet to see the full fruits of the effort.
“It’s all the groundwork,” Rummage-Mathias said.
Nonetheless, the Tourism Marketing District appears to have taken an “if you build it, they will come” attitude, and has been making modifications to their hotels. Over the last year, the local Comfort Suites has updated its rooms, while the Marriott in Visalia is making updates to its lobby. Other modifications are also being done for the Fairfield, Best Western and Wyndham franchises in Visalia. There are further plans to open a new establishment – the Darling Hotel – out of the old Tulare County Courthouse.
The end result of Visit Visalia’s efforts is yet to be seen, but Metcalf said she is hopeful for the future as the city has much to offer – now it’s just a matter of showing the world.
“I think our biggest task ahead is just to be prolifically out there,” Metcalf said, “professing Visalia as a great destination.”