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California's First Tourism Drive Draws Them In

July 20, 1986|CHRIS S. MORGESE | United Press International

SACRAMENTO — Faced with fierce competition from other states for tourist dollars, California early last year launched its first promotional campaign to attract more visitors and vacationers.

More than a year later, state officials have obtained statistics showing that the program was an immediate success and promises to become more effective as it expands.

Gov. George Deukmejian budgeted $5 million in the 1984-85 fiscal year for a tourism-marketing campaign, noting that California had been spending nothing to lure tourists while many states were spending millions for tourism.

The state Department of Commerce targeted the 11 Western states for television and magazine ads trumpeting California as a great place to spend a vacation.

Attractions Broken Down

The ads offered vacation planners a packet of colorful brochures and maps detailing the "unique" attractions of a dozen regions dubbed "the Californias": the Gold Country, High Sierra, North Coast, Central Coast, the Greater Los Angeles Area, Central Valley, Shasta-Cascade, San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, San Diego, Inland Empire and the deserts.

The department commissioned a survey conducted in April to help determine how effective the travel information was in getting people to come to California.

Charlton Research Co. of San Francisco, which carried out the survey, found that six of 10 people who requested travel data during the first three months of the program--April, May and June of last year--took a vacation or pleasure trip in California.

"The results of the survey strongly indicate (that) the state's tourism campaign messages have been reaching a receptive audience," Commerce Director Christy Campbell Walters said.

"Our response to inquiry information apparently had an influence on potential travelers who had not yet decided on travel destination and reinforced the decisions of those who had."

Walters said results of the study are "conservative" because they do not take into account "the number of people who could have taken pleasure trips to California after being exposed to advertising or other marketing activities but did not request informational materials."

Researchers interviewed 600 people--300 California residents and 300 non-residents. They were equally divided among those who made phone requests and those who asked for information by mail.

Warren Rashleigh, a department spokesman, said survey results show that the program "has gotten off to a successful start. We never advertised before, but the ads were pretty well received."

Rashleigh said department officials anticipate even more success in attracting visitors and tourists to California with the addition of New York, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas as program "target markets" this year.

Another $5 million was budgeted for the program during the 1985-86 fiscal year that ended recently. But Rashleigh noted that tourist-related companies such as airlines contributed another $5 million to the campaign by sharing the costs of advertising in return for being mentioned in the ads.

Budget Up to $7 Million

The state's tourism promotion budget for the new fiscal year was increased to $7 million, and more private industry participation is anticipated. A new goal of the program is to get more Californians to sample the Golden State's vacation spots.

Deukmejian, the Republican governor, was criticized by some Democratic leaders for leaving the tourism program intact while making cuts in health, welfare, education and toxics programs before signing the new state budget. But his Administration defends the tourism project as a way to achieve long-range benefits for the state.

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