State budget invests $15M in tourism economy, helps market Monterey County – Monterey Herald

MONTEREY — Monterey County’s tourism industry will benefit from the $15 million in marketing funds that are part of the $308 billion state budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday.

Visit California, the travel industry’s support organization, said the funds will be used to supplement its tourism efforts by providing direct support for domestic tourism marketing programs aimed at driving increased travel to destinations and communities throughout the state.

Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Rob O’Keefe said the stimulus funds Visit California received in 2021 allowed it to launch its first-ever campaign targeting and groups conferences, and this new funding will allow that campaign to continue, which will help amplify the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s marketing and sales effort through its own “All In” campaign.

The state’s previous investment in 2021 was $95 million in tourism marketing stimulus funds, which has been critical to reviving the state’s hard-hit tourism sector and accelerating the travel industry’s path to recovery.

The Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “All In” campaign was launched in November 2021 to spur interest in the Monterey Peninsula’s outdoor settings, conference centers and array of venues for groups and conferences.

Visit California reports that visitor spending in California grew 46% in 2021 compared to the previous year totaling $100.2 billion.

Updated economic projections now forecast that travel spending in California will reach 2019 levels by 2023, a year earlier than previous estimates.

“(Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau)’s sales and marketing program budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23 is planned to be $6.95 million across leisure, groups and meetings, and international markets,” said O’Keefe. “This is far outpaced by many of our regional competitors that have more dollars and fewer markets of focus.”

The bureau’s marketing program is focused on prioritizing higher value travel — those visitors who come when the area needs them most and who stay longer, do more and leave a lighter footprint on the beautiful Central Coast destination, he said.

“Other priorities are rebalancing our visitor mix — trying to bring back group and international travelers — and continuing to infuse sustainable and responsible travel messaging into all programming,” said O’Keefe.

The group market is important and sorely lacking, worth an estimated two times more than leisure travelers, and leaving a lighter footprint on the destination by not generally driving into the region by car, and having a fixed itinerary. Groups come in the offseason between October and May and close the midweek gap from Mondays through Thursdays. The group traveler also tends to add leisure time before or after meetings or conferences or come back with family in tow to see the destination again.

According to the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, travel spending in the county was $3.2 billion in 2019, but with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, that figure dropped to $1.6 billion in 2020. The ongoing recovery from the effects of the pandemic was reflected in the travel spending figure for 2021 reaching $2.5 billion.

O’Keefe said that 2022 is another rebuilding year.

“Full travel spending recovery is projected for 2023, if we can continue to drive group business and the return of international visitation,” he said.

The state funding will supplement the travel industry’s contribution and allow Visit California to continue marketing programs across the nation to inspire travel to the Golden State, said Visit California’s President and CEO Caroline Beteta, in a press release.

“The $95 million assigned by the Legislature a year ago helped California reclaim its nation-leading tourism market share and reestablish itself as one of the state’s most reliable job producers,” said Beteta. “This $15 million contribution will help finish the job and bring California’s tourism economy back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.”

Visit California reports that initial projections estimate that the state’s $15 million investment in tourism marketing stimulus will generate $4 billion in visitor spending at California businesses and create 37,600 travel and hospitality jobs.

O’Keefe said that the Monterey County travel and tourism industry still is not where it needs to be with group business, which is why these additional state funds are so critical to rebuilding that important market for the local industry.

“International travel is also far below previous levels,” said O’Keefe. “The destination also needs to continue to invest in new and improved infrastructure including hotels, attractions and other businesses to keep Monterey County competitive with nearby destinations.”

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