Tourism continues to be a significant contributor to the strength of the Tri-Valley economy, according to the 2018-2019 Annual Report from Visit Tri-Valley. The organization, which is funded via assessments on occupied hotel rooms in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and Danville, raises awareness of the local region by marketing the Tri-Valley as a single destination. Visit Tri-Valley marketing campaigns encourage visitors to spend money with local businesses in all four cities by exploring themed Tri-Valley trails for wine, beer, ice cream, coffee, shopping, and biking. The organization also promotes arts and culture venues, the region's golf courses, and other popular activities via a variety of marketing programs and campaigns. In 2018, Visit Tri-Valley won three awards for its marketing programs.
Overall hotel room occupancy dropped over the past year nationwide, including in the Tri-Valley. Even so, travel spending in the region rose to $680 million in 2018 from $669 million in 2017. In 2018, visitor spending supported 6,300 jobs, an increase from the year before. Tri-Valley overnight hotel patrons spent an average of $258 per person per day, an increase of 7.5%, and day visitors spent $105 per person per day, a rise of 8%, according to the 2018-2019 Annual Report.
"We want the people who live here to appreciate, enjoy, and understand the benefits of tourism," says Barbara Steinfeld, President and CEO of Visit Tri-Valley. "Seventy-four million dollars in taxes is generated by this industry in the Tri-Valley alone. We want that number to grow. It alleviates the tax load on every citizen who is paying taxes here."
To help grow tourist spending, Visit Tri-Valley's outreach to China includes 51 tour operators who sold 7,260 hotel room nights in 2018. The Tri-Valley received media coverage in China worth nearly $2.4 million. To introduce more visitors from outside of California to the area's delights, Visit Tri-Valley also hosted journalists from Italy, Canada, the United Kingdom, as well as China and the United States. An increasing number of sport events are also being booked in the Tri-Valley. In 2018, 19 events were hosted in the region, including a national USA Water Polo event, the national Asian Basketball Championships, and the Scripps Spelling Bee.
The Tri-Valley's innovative Ambassador Program trains winery, hotel, and other visitor-facing employees about the wonders of the Tri-Valley. Because many of them do not live in the area, "they don't know about all our wonderful cuisine or the local beauty of the Tri-Valley or all the cute little shops," says Steinfeld. An estimated 150 employees have either completed or are in the process of completing the Ambassador Program, which gives front-line employees the ability to offer enthusiastic recommendations about visitor activities and venues.
The two- to three-hour sessions involve field trips via a bus and cover wine; beer; Tri-Valley downtowns, including shopping and culture; and outdoor activities. "Because the Tri-Valley is so diverse and spread out, we do four different sessions," notes Steinfeld. For the most recent session, the group went with a naturalist on a boat trip on "stunningly beautiful" Lake Del Valle in Del Valle Regional Park near Livermore to learn more about the area.
After Visit Tri-Valley added a page to its website devoted to dog-friendly restaurants, wineries, breweries, shops, parks, and other venues, it quickly became the most popular destination on the website. But the website is far from the only way to learn about the region. Visit Tri-Valley wants to ensure visitors can find the information they want wherever they may be: on the website, on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, or via voice-activation tools from Amazon, Apple, and Alexa that let users ask for the information they want.
"If you want to know the best place to eat in Pleasanton or where to go hiking or which winery does yoga, or any kind of question you might ask, we are capturing that for the Tri-Valley," says Steinfeld.
The voice-activation project is currently in beta. Already, half a million questions about the Tri-Valley have been compiled so far, according to Robin Fahr, Director of Marketing and Communications. If a future hotel guest asks one of the voice-recognition services, for example, "Is there a winery that serves rose and is dog friendly?" the guest would get a response such as "Here are three dog-friendly wineries that feature rose."
As far as executives know, Visit Tri-Valley is only the third destination marketing organization focusing on making voice-recognition information available. This pioneering development "is also good for the locals," says Fahr. "We want to give the locals as much as we do our visitors." Soon they will have the opportunity to find out what is going on in the Tri-Valley by simply asking, "Where shall I take the family?" she notes.
Other plans for 2020 include expanding the the Tri-Valley Beer Trail reward program. The Tri-Valley Beer Trail connects a community of more than 20 craft breweries, taprooms, and alehouses located in the Tri-Valley area. Typically visitors earn a reward for downloading a "passport" for the beer trail and getting their passports stamped after visiting a certain number of stops. Next year the program is being expanded. Serious beer fans who visit every stop on the beer trail will earn their very own Tri-Valley beer growler, a 32-ounce portable beer container that is perfect for transporting one's favorite Tri-Valley craft beer.
It is not necessary to visit all of the stops to make a contribution to the region, however. The nonprofit Taylor Family Foundation has touched the lives of more than 67,000 children and provided support for nearly 86,000 families in Northern California over the past 30 years. Until January 31, 2020, Visit Tri-Valley will donate $20 to the foundation for every person who completes at least five stops along the Tri-Valley Beer Trail.
The 2020 Tri-Valley Visitors Guide will be available at hotels and online the first week of January. Other changes are coming in January as well. Steinfeld will be stepping down from her post as President and CEO of Visit Tri-Valley at the end of that month.
Steinfeld has confidence in the future of Visit Tri-Valley and the region as a whole. "This is a really beautiful destination for people," says Steinfeld. "Our local farmer's markets and our adorable downtowns make it the essence of local California. It is the perfect weekend getaway. People absolutely love it."
For more information about Visit Tri-Valley, please visit www.visittrivalley.com.