SACRAMENTO — California moved Thursday to solidify its spot as a pre-eminent tourist attraction by launching an unprecedented $5-million advertising campaign designed to lure travelers to the state and persuade those who live here to spend their vacation dollars at home.
Gov. George Deukmejian, surrounded at a press conference by Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters from California's major amusement parks, said it is the first time the state has had a budget for advertising to attract tourists.
He said aggressive tourism campaigns by such states as Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado and Utah have made it necessary.
"For too long now, those of us in California have just taken it for granted that California is the obvious destination for all tourists," the governor said. "But even though we are the No. 1 state in terms of the number of people coming to the state . . . the competition for that tourist dollar has sharpened over the past decade, and now we've got to meet that competition."
He said the "most critical goal" of the campaign "is to protect and to increase our job opportunities for the residents of our state. . . . By attracting more tourists, we can increase the number of available jobs for our people."
Once a Low Priority
Deukmejian's predecessor, Edmund G. Brown Jr., gave tourism a low priority. He refused to print state road maps and, for a time, he eliminated the Office of Tourism from the state budget. Before this year, California ranked 47th among the 50 states in the amount spent to encourage tourism. It now ranks ninth.
The $5 million for the advertising blitz was included in last year's budget by Deukmejian and approved by the Legislature. He has proposed an equal amount in his 1985-86 spending plan.
Later this month, Californians and residents of 11 other Western states will start seeing television commercials, billboards and newspaper and magazine ads extolling the state's virtues and diversity. The cornerstone of the effort is a television campaign made up of three 60-second spots that feature the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
In one ad, a young businesswoman, against a backdrop of soft music and hazy sunshine, is shown enjoying the sights and sounds of San Diego and Palm Springs while the sound track has her explaining over the telephone to her home office that she must stay in California another few days to complete a business deal.
Subsequent ads will focus on other areas, according to Flo Snyder, director of the Office of Tourism, who joked that before the infusion of money into her office "the state of Alaska threatened to make two collect calls . . . and wipe out our budget."
The 12 'Californias'
Newspaper and magazine ads will feature the Gold Country, the North Coast and the Central Coast, and billboards have been prepared highlighting each of 12 regions in the state. Labeled "the Californias," they range from the Central Valley to Southern California desert areas.
Snyder said the West is the initial target of the ads because market studies show that three-quarters of the tourists who visit California are from neighboring states.
California tourism suffered a 10% decline in 1983, but it remains a $28-billion industry that employs 1.6 million people. Officials said they estimate the return on the $5-million advertising program launched Thursday to be about $200 million in new travel spending.