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The Lure of the Tourist

Senior Fellows Discuss the Positives

Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wherever you see progress in diversifying our region’s industry clusters, you’ll find ALF Senior Fellows at the heart of it.  And tourism is no exception. In our ALF–Mountain Valley sphere of influence, tourism is seen as an instrument for regional development.  

For instance, convincing travelers to consider the natural beauty that is El Dorado County as a destination has always been a key economic driver there. According to Visit California, in 2016, $734.5 million dollars flowed in to EL Dorado County, generating 8,880 jobs and almost $60 million in local and state tax revenue. But to keep the stimulus alive and growing, sustainable tourism, i.e., creating a net benefit for the economic, social, cultural and natural environments of a destination have to be considered.

One such benefit tourism can provide is increasing our regions’ student population and our workforce.

“From a university perspective, when prospective students become familiar with a destination, maybe through a vacation or through their engagement with social media, the profile of the destination rises in their eyes,” says UC Davis Director of Community Relations, Mabel Salon (Class XVI), also a boardmember of Visit Sacramento. “As a result, it makes it easier to convince prospective students to consider UC Davis or Sacramento State.”

To attract students and workers permanently however, their first trip here as visitors must be authentic to the area and reflect regional values such as protecting the environment.

Laurel Brent-Bumb (Class X), CEO of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, sees the El Dorado County Stay and Play Shuttle as a solution to sustaining the attractions people come to see.

“The El Dorado Stay and Play Shuttle (designed by the El Dorado County Visitors Authority) reduces motor vehicle emissions and introduces new visitors to the area,” says Brent-Bumb. “It’s funded by a grant from the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District.” 

Brent-Bumb sees economic growth through tourism and environmentally sound practices to sustain it like the Stay and Play Shuttle as common ground that works for everybody, including tourism growth advocates who would like to see more amenities.

“We need more lodging, and that will most certainly have economic implications,” added Brent-Bumb.

Wendy Thomas (Class XV), Placerville’s vice mayor is all for boosting the economy, and says her city and the Sierra foothills are “hopping” right now.  But with roots in Placerville dating back to 1850, Thomas feels her obligation is to preserve and highlight the historical and natural resources of Placerville, not necessarily hype them. 

“We could orient ourselves in an [attract tourism] direction even more and perhaps see an economic boost,” Thomas says.  “However, what makes Placerville so appealing is that we are an authentic hometown with a rich history.  We’re the real thing, and that’s attractive to tourists.”

If authenticity is what visitors crave, then Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork movement is certainly well positioned.  Our Senior Fellows agree that thanks to key leadership (including many ALFers) the concept is emerging as a regional draw.

“I think “Farm-to-Fork” is a natural destination for us,” says Thomas.  “I don’t see other regions embracing that designation and it certainly describes us. From the rice fields of Sacramento, to Apple Hill, to the EDC Wine Region, to the California cuisine that embraces all the agricultural riches in our innovative regional restaurants, Farm-to-Fork is a natural designation.”

Salon agrees and says it’s time the region had a 365-day visitor experience dedicated to authentic Farm-to-Fork experiences.

“Certainly UC Davis is poised to be part of whatever this would be given our long heritage and leadership in agriculture,” she says.

The region’s dominance as an authority on the growth and preparation of locally grown food also enhances the possibility of more convention trade, especially with the proposed expansion and renovation of the Sacramento Convention Center.

“This exciting City project will create a dynamic center for conventions, meetings, cultural experiences and more for years to come,” says Salon. “With the project underway, Visit Sacramento can pursue future meetings and conventions that were previously not viable prospects because of existing space constraints in the convention center.”

Our Senior Fellow’s region-wide effort to increase tourism is not only a prosperity boost, but also a hedge against losing jobs to other areas, something that has plagued the region in the past.

“Tourism is an industry that creates jobs,” added Salon.  In fact, it is the one industry that can’t be exported. You need the people to service visitors and that means those jobs remain in the community.”

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