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|Santa Cruz County, CA||November 7, 2006 Election|
Missing the Tourism Bus
By George V. EricksonCandidate for City; City of Watsonville; Council District 6
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It's time to reactivate the tourism committee at the Chamber of Commerce, to develop a focus group on the city council, and to join with local museums and government agencies to promote Watsonville as a destination spot.Focusing on economic development is key to improving the quality of life for Watsonville residents. Homegrown jobs mean less time on crowded highways, more time with our families and less stress on our bodies and environment.
While the University of California Santa Cruz physics and chemistry departments are focusing on high-tech green jobs, like bio-diesel, fuel cells, and solar energy, these represent the jobs of the future for the Central Coast. In the short term, another industry--destination tourism--could be a powerful engine fueling our economy.
Tourism ranks, alongside agriculture, as one of the top employers and revenue-producing industries in Santa Cruz County. The City of Santa Cruz is first in revenue from the hotel occupancy tax, generating over $3 million annually, while Watsonville is a far-distant second, receiving $586,712 during the fiscal year 2005-06. Collectively, $500 million in visitor dollars each year support local employment, small business development, police and fire protection, road repairs, park maintenance, and social services.
So what is being done currently to cultivate this industry in Watsonville? As a non-beach community, Watsonville relies on local events and spillover visits from regional happenings like Laguna Seca. But most of these events bring in daytime visitors that leave before traffic gets heavy. The result is a hotel occupancy rate of only 57%.
Time to Stop and Smell the Berries
Events are a grand start, but let's take a moment and expand our vision. Imagine a tour bus arriving early for a morning on the farm, lunch at the Roger's house, an afternoon of folkloric and mariachi music on the Plaza, then a fine Mexican dinner followed by a concert at the Mello center. Our imaginary guests are now ready for hot tubbing and a nights rest at one of our motels. Morning brings breakfast, a walk along the wetlands, a tour of the Martinelli processing plant, berry picking and pie tasting at Gizdich Ranch. It's just one scenario, but many others are possible.
Time to Get Serious About Tourism
It's time to reactivate the tourism committee at the Chamber of Commerce, to develop a focus group on the city council, and to join with local museums and government agencies to promote Watsonville as a destination spot. Then let's send a representative to the California Travel Industry Association's 11th Annual California Travel Market, April 2007 in Southern California. There national and international tour companies will discover all that California and Watsonville have to offer. Watsonville could nearly double its occupancy revenue and business income using the infrastructure we already have.
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