Nine of California’s major tourist attractions have joined forces with the state Department of Commerce and Delta Air Lines in what tourism officials on Thursday described as an unprecedented campaign to bolster the state’s meager share of tourists from Eastern states.
Tourism industry officials also hope that the campaign--scheduled to begin Jan. 1--will revive gate receipts that have declined in the past year because of a nationwide economic slowdown, fear of gangs and the threat of war in the Persian Gulf.
The state has dedicated $180,000 of its $7-million annual tourism advertising budget to help promote the “Delta California Dream Vacation” package, in which the Atlanta-based carrier will offer California-bound passengers free admission tickets to the state’s major tourist attractions under certain conditions.
Disneyland, Universal Studios and the San Diego Zoo are among the tourist attractions contributing $25,000 each to the advertising campaign, in addition to providing Delta with admission tickets at a “deep, deep discount,” said Jack Stewart, the Commerce Department’s chief deputy director.
The promotional campaign could generate as much as $25 million in additional tourist spending if Delta reaches its goal of selling 25,000 travel packages to tourists in the East, Stewart said.
Equally important, he said, Delta’s television and newspaper advertising campaign in major Eastern markets should leave “countless impressions” on consumers who traditionally have flown or driven to Florida rather than traveled to California for family vacations.
That kind of exposure is important, tourism experts said, because the state spends woefully little on out-of-state promotion, and individual tourist attractions lack the capital to heavily advertise their attractions back East.
“Nobody has ever done anything like this before,” Stewart said. “We’re going head-to-head with Florida” for Eastern tourist dollars.
During 1991, Delta will offer the free tickets, which would carry a value of more than $500 to a family of four, to passengers who book certain round-trip flights, agree to rent a car and remain in California for at least five days, Stewart said. The package is available to residents of all states except California, Nevada and Arizona.
Other tourist attractions participating are the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Knotts Berry Farm, Sea World of California, Marine World Africa USA Theme Park and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Industry and state tourism officials have for years known that California ranks far behind Florida as a destination for Eastern tourists. During 1989, for example, tourists from states east of the Rocky Mountains accounted for just 25% of the nearly $50 billion of tourism-related spending in California. The remainder was spent by Californians and residents of 10 Western states.
Delta declined to specify how much it would spend on the campaign, but Stewart said Delta has agreed to spend “a figure that is between $3 million and $5 million” on the promotion and the purchase of admission tickets.
Delta outbid United Airlines, American Airlines and USAir for the right to the California vacation promotion, Stewart said.
Delta spokeswoman Frances Conner said the airline pursued the promotion to bolster its share of the lucrative East-West air traffic market.
“The cooperation (for the Delta campaign) is unprecedented,” San Diego Zoo spokesman Jeff Jouett said. “We’ve never been all together like this before, and the state deserves praise. I think it’s really a sign of the times; we’re all seeing (attendance) decreases in Southern California, so we’re trying to combine forces and get people here.”
“It comes down to a common cause, a common interest,” Disneyland spokesman Bob Roth said. “We’ve done some joint efforts previously (with Knotts Berry Farm) but nothing on this broad a spectrum.”
Tourism industry experts said they would hope to recoup the cost of the ticket giveaways through sales of “T-shirts, food, souvenirs and the like,” Stewart said. In addition to money spent at the attractions, hotels and restaurants would also get some of the tourist dollars.
The cost to the parks will not be as dramatic as it first appears because “nobody could have the energy to do all nine parks,” said Harrison Price, a Torrance-based tourism industry consultant. “Whoever priced it (for the parks) has contemplated the fact that not all the (free admissions) will be used.”
Price commended the state for getting the nine attractions to agree to a joint campaign. “Over the years I’ve seen a ton of joint-marketing efforts where a couple of different parks might get together,” Price said. “But this is the biggest group I’ve ever seen together.”
Although the parks are working together to get Easterners into the state, “once the tourists are in California, it’s everyone for himself again,” Jouett said.
Stewart said it is too soon to say if the program will be repeated during 1992.