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Ventura County

County to Team Up on Tourism

Marketing: Business and government officials agree to form a joint plan for promoting local attractions.


Moving away from individual campaigns that have sometimes pitted one city against another, Ventura County economic boosters are creating a group to promote countywide tourism.

Momentum for a collaborative marketing campaign was building before the Sept. 11 attacks, said Janel Huff, director of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, which hosted a tourism brainstorming session last week.

Those attending the session, including businesspeople, county tourism officials, directors of local visitors bureaus and city representatives, agreed to form a steering committee to develop a regional marketing plan to get underway early next year. How the marketing effort will be paid for has yet to be worked out.

Focus Turns to Luring Motorists

Meanwhile, the increased fear of flying since the terrorist attacks has shifted much of the travel from airlines to road trips. That has provided added incentive to develop a regional marketing plan that encourages vacationers within driving distance to stay several days and visit more than one site.

Organizations from the county's 10 cities believe they could launch a stronger advertising campaign if they pool their finances.

Spearheading the campaign through the economic collaborative will be Ed Robings, a cultural tourism advocate and former museum director.

"People like to stay at one place, unpack their bags and make short trips to other places--see the Reagan library in Simi Valley, the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard and the Ojai Valley Inn, maybe catch a play or musical at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks," Robings said.

By early next year, he hopes to launch a Web site that would allow potential visitors to obtain information about events in each of the county's cities.

"Ventura County really has a lot of what people are seeking these days," said Kathy Janega-Dykes, executive director of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau. "It's a safe rural haven. It offers that small-town atmosphere that is very appealing to people these days."

Hotel Occupancy Fell in September

Since Sept. 11, she said, "more people are driving to nearby destinations. It's more important than ever for all of us in Ventura County to work collectively to market the region."

Hotel occupancy rates in September were down 11.5% countywide from a year ago, Janega-Dykes said. October numbers were not available, but local tourism officials said hotel visits seem to have been making a comeback in recent weeks.

"We're going to recover these losses quicker because we're in a drive-time area and not heavily populated, where there might be [the perception of] a big risk," said Carol Lavender, executive director of the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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