Q & A

Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau chief Diane Baker

The role of the Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau is to market the city as a tourism destination and meeting site. The agency is supported by the city's bed tax--a surcharge added to guest bills at hotels and motels. Of the $1.6 million that levy is projected to bring in for fiscal 1995-96, $190,000 will go back to the bureau for operating costs. Diane Baker, head of the agency since it was formed in 1990, said tourism is essential to Huntington Beach's economic health. The average conference visitor in the city spends $166 a day, she said, and the average one-day visitor about $78. Baker, 50, who was previously marketing director for the state of New Mexico, spoke with Times correspondent Debra Cano about the bureau's role and objectives.

Q: What is the bureau's mission?

A: To be an economic generator for Huntington Beach in attracting destination visitors. We are a marketing service organization [intended] to create, develop, promote and maintain a strong visitor and conference industry.

Q: How do you do that?

A: The first thing we did five years ago was create collateral material like brochures. There was nothing. Absolutely nada. Every January we put out a destination visitors guide. It's about 44 pages, four-color, and it's advertising driven. We distribute 75,000 a year, and we do bulk mailings and maintain an 800 number. We also have brochures in Spanish, French, German, Japanese and English to promote the city to the foreign group-tour business. We're currently attending travel and trade shows, and we belong to international and national organizations. Another nice thing we're doing is working with our neighbors on the coast. We put out a brochure called "Watercolors of the Coast," a cooperative regional effort with Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point.

Q: Why do people visit Huntington Beach?

A: With 8 1/2 miles of beach, it's the California experience. For those who don't live here, this is how people picture California. And for those who live [within] a short radius, they look at it as a getaway.

Q: How do you see the future of tourism in Huntington Beach?

A: Moving forward. The city has 1,200 hotel rooms. We need to have more first-class hotel rooms that will increase the tax base and economy. . . . I see Huntington Beach as a destination: The beach is the draw. We have 11 million visitors to the beach each year. . . . Hawaii has 8.3 million visitors [to its beaches]. That's pretty impressive.

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