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Tourist-Related Businesses Gear Up for a Busy Summer

Western Ventura County’s hotels, restaurants and other tourist-related businesses are gearing up for their busiest summer season in years, thanks largely to an expected increase in visitors from the Greater Los Angeles area.

The season, which began unofficially last weekend, should be the strongest since the late 1980s, says Debbie Solomon, the city of Ventura’s tourism marketing supervisor. She predicts that more than 1.5 million people will visit Ventura, Oxnard and other beach areas in the county between now and Labor Day.

“Our hotels and other businesses that cater to tourists did unusually well in January and February, and we expect the trend to continue,” she said. “Generally, those months are quiet. They may have been helped this year by the earthquake and the riots. Whatever the reason, we’re quite optimistic.”

In addition to its recently refurbished pier, Ventura hopes to lure vacationers with such attractions as beachfront art shows, strolling troubadours and a sudden revival of coffeehouses. “We’ve had 10 to 15 new coffeehouses started in the past couple of years, and they all seem to be doing well. People enjoy taking time out and resting in them,” Solomon said.

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Oxnard, too, expects an upsurge of visitors this summer. Carol Lavender, executive director of the city’s tourism bureau, says she expects solid results from cable TV and newspaper ads being placed in Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley. “We drew 85,000 people to our Strawberry Festival a couple of weeks ago,” she noted. “That’s a record, and we expect the trend to continue. People are more interested in going places than they’ve been in several years.”

Still, Lavender says Oxnard has no illusions about attracting long-term vacationers.

“We’re concentrating on people who live within a three-hour drive,” she said. “We’ll be happy if they stay a day, but we’ll be especially happy if they’re with us several days and nights.”

Oxnard will help launch its official summer season with a jazz and blues festival July 8 to 10. Numerous other events are planned at Channel Islands Harbor and other locations.

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