California travel agency to spend nearly $ 5 million to revive business meetings

Signing the Significant Economic Contribution of Business Meetings in California, the State Travel Promotion Agency to Add Business Travel Attraction to Its Marketing Efforts .

Visit California unveiled “Meet What’s Possible,” a campaign designed to get businesses to bring their business meetings back to the state. The nonprofit has allocated $ 4.5 million of the $ 95 million it received in stimulus funds earlier this year for the initiative.

“Meetings and events play a vital role in the California economy, and working closely with (our) campaign partners, we look forward to leading the way towards a powerful recovery,” said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of The management of Visit California, whose organization earlier this month, presented its campaign to meeting planners at a conference in two cities, starting in Chicago and ending in Minneapolis.

A task force of 10 of the state’s 20 tourism agencies, including Visit Napa Valley, will advise Visit California on the best way forward to promote the state as a premier event destination.

“It’s really important that the meetings industry recovers,” said Linsey Gallagher, President and CEO of Visit Napa Valley. “We lost a lot of our share in this business when we closed in California and many other states weren’t. … We are definitely open and accept this business again.

Gallagher also raised the possibility that companies that held off-site rallies elsewhere while California was in lockdown might not return soon. And meetings and events are usually booked well in advance, sometimes up to two years in advance.

“We’re really going to have to win back this business, and it’s so important for us to have Visit California in mind with a statewide message,” said Gallagher, noting that the Visit California funding will help destinations. smaller like Napa who have no wealth. of resources.

The Visit California task force was designed as a mix of destinations that normally host large events and conferences, and smaller places like Napa Valley that have their own attributes, Gallagher said.

It is these smaller places that should be the first to capture the meeting market, she noted.

“The 10,000-person convention is not expected to recover as quickly as the 30-person, smaller in-person meeting,” said Gallagher. “We see smaller, more intimate business or incentive travel coming back very strongly in 2022.”

While Napa Valley will continue to be driven by leisure travel, Gallagher said the destination has a clear opportunity to capitalize on its share of business meetings as early as possible.

In fact, Visit Napa Valley got the ball rolling earlier this year by launching its ‘Crush that Meeting’ campaign, which showcases Napa’s outdoor opportunities, as well as options for indoor gatherings. The campaign received positive feedback, Gallagher said, so the agency plans to increase its investment for calendar year 2022. Visit Napa Valley’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

“We hear from meeting planners in particular that people are really anxious to get back on the road and travel again,” said Gallagher, “but there’s a lot of anxiety around the safety side of things.”

Sonoma County tourism also needs the resources that Visit California offers, according to the bureau chief, but she expressed surprise that the state agency got involved.

“It’s pretty unusual for a state tourism board to tackle the meeting market, and the reason is that most of the time… major meeting destinations (like) San Francisco and Palm Springs are all competitors. quite fierce, ”said Claudia Vecchio. , President and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism. “Visiting California is tackling the meeting market is really beneficial for smaller destinations like Sonoma County, as Visit California’s financial strength and the breakthroughs it can create for destinations like ours are certainly very good. “

Two months ago, Sonoma County Tourism added a new group of business development professionals to their team, and they’ve already converted two leads into live meetings, Vecchio said.

Both meetings will be aimed at medical companies, according to Jonny Westom, vice president of business development. The first meeting, which will bring together approximately 225 participants, is expected to take place in the first quarter. The second meeting, scheduled for around 84 participants, is scheduled for the second quarter, he said.

Vecchio said the Tourism Bureau’s business development team was “both strategic and aggressive in researching the types of meetings that should take place in Sonoma County.

“We’ve always been a place for incentive travel and business travel, and some association travel, but they’re generally a little more financially prudent than some of the others,” Vecchio added.

SCT is also exploring new business segments for meetings, such as the cannabis industry and organizations in the field of sustainability, fire prevention and resilience, said Vecchio.

“We remain very focused and pay close attention to the needs of meeting planners as we continue to grapple with whatever COVID is dealing with us,” she said.

The Visit California working group also includes Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, San Diego Tourism Authority, San Francisco Travel, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism, Visit Anaheim, Visit Greater Palm Springs and Visit Santa Barbara.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, healthcare and education. She previously worked for a daily Gannett in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business newspaper. Cheryl has worked freelance for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Contact her at [email protected] or 707-521-4259.

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