State Features County in Tourism Campaign

Times Staff Writer

Orange County officially becomes a 786-square-mile theme park today--at least in the eyes of the California Office of Tourism.

That is the latest theme of the department’s $5-million statewide advertising campaign, scheduled to be unveiled in Anaheim today. In Orange County, “You can have anything you want,” according to the tourism department’s slogan.

The campaign is the second advertising effort by the state after years of limping along with an operating budget of $500,000. The Sacramento-based agency claims its first campaign helped boost California tourism 5%. The department said tourism brings $31 billion to the California economy each year.

The timing of this year’s campaign capitalizes on Disneyland’s 30th anniversary celebration and the state’s post-Olympic glow, which is luring visitors here at a near-record pace.

The agency is out to prove that the state’s summer tourism surge has not been a fluke. The glitzy campaign, which will premiere in national magazines such as People and Sunset in October, refers to Orange County as “Tomorrowland and Frontierland merged and inseparable.”


The ad further beckons visitors with the slogan: “Come to Orange County. It’s no place like home.”

Low-Key Billboards

But the agency’s simultaneous statewide billboard campaign promoting Orange County tourism will remain almost as low-key as last year’s. This year’s billboard will be a simple shot of sailboats drifting in a bay, a shade less pastoral than last year’s often-criticized Orange County billboard ad that featured a lone cow grazing in a field.

Officials say that billboard photos of things like cows and sailboats remind tourists that there are other attractions in Orange County besides Disneyland.

“In some regions like Orange County, there’s more to do than in many whole states,” said Flo Snyder, director of the state’s tourism office. Many tourists seem to agree with that assessment, as Anaheim hotels have seen a 40% increase in occupancy through much of the summer, said Bill Snyder, president of the Anaheim Area Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The state tourism department has divided the state into 12 regions that will all be advertised over the next few years. Last year, the agency primarily focused its advertising on the Gold Country, an area in the state’s northeast section, where unemployment is relatively high.

Aiming for New Jobs

Employment, after all, is at the crux of the tourism campaign, said Jack Stewart, chief deputy director of the California Department of Commerce. “The whole basis of the campaign is to create jobs, not to boost corporate profits,” he said.

Employment is suddenly a concern in Orange County, where manufacturing industry layoffs have recently swelled the jobless ranks. In two recent months, county unemployment has edged up two-tenths of a percentage point. During June and July, nearly 4,000 more residents joined the county’s unemployment rolls, which now total more than 58,000, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The goal of the current campaign is to create 4,000 new tourism-related jobs statewide and pump state tax revenues collected from tourists over the $1-billion mark, Stewart said.

Officials say that since the state’s first ad blitz began six months ago, the number of inquiries to the state’s tourism office increased more than 50%. Travel agencies throughout the western United States have also reported renewed interest in California tourism. In a recent survey of 60 top travel agencies, all but one agency reported a 10% to 25% boost in business written for California travel.

Until now, the advertising campaign has been limited to the western states, primarily because these states account for more than 75% of California’s visitors. But with states like Hawaii and Florida slowly siphoning off tourists from California, the ad campaign is expected to spread east by spring, Stewart said.