Tourism has long played a critical role in Ventura’s economy. For the last nine years, burgeoning tourism has generated over $300 million in visitor spending in Ventura each year. And tourism’s beneficial spinoffs are myriad and sometimes hidden. Yes, tourism creates roughly 2,600 Ventura jobs, and tourism’s dollars help fund the city’s fire and police forces, build the city’s roads, and finance the city’s schools. Perhaps less known, tourism touches everyone. Tourism-related tax revenue from California visitors in 2019 amounted to $920 in savings for every single California household.
COVID-19 has now altered the landscape. Towns and people everywhere are struggling with matters more important than tourism. But while our medical heroes labor to stem the human losses, Visit Ventura is working to help Ventura’s economy — but not through tourism. A nonprofit funded by the city, Visit Ventura settled on a simple premise. Now is the time to do what Ventura does best — help each other.
“We know that, in the necessary absence of visitors, our businesses need a new kind of visitor, one that knows the true meaning behind 805,” said Visit Ventura President & CEO Marlyss Auster. “It’s not complicated. We need each other. And we’ve been here before. There’s no town more caring than ours.”
With caring in mind, Visit Ventura, through a variety of programs, has reached out to our remarkable community, asking that community to do a simple, caring thing — do the best they can to support our local businesses. With support in mind, Visit Ventura started “Takeout Tuesdays,” encouraging residents to buy takeout on Tuesdays (or any other day) if they can. They also dreamed up “Thirsty Thursdays,” a program of live Facebook tastings that feature local breweries, wineries, spirit makers, and even chocolatiers. The businesses come up with a special tasting package. Locals (and Californians farther afield) buy the package, and then enjoy them while watching as the brewer explains the nuances of various hops. Visit Ventura’s “Feel Good Fridays” have highlighted a variety of other businesses; highlighting, in an ever-changing world, what those businesses are offering — from online sales, to curbside pickup, to gradual reopenings. Each program is broadcast out over Visit Ventura’s social channels, reaching some 150,000 followers.
In a world of often bleak news, the results have been smile inducing. Ventura Coast Brewing Company, the first “Thirsty Thursday” participant, had close to 5,000 viewers log on, and saw a 120 percent increase in sales. When Topa Topa Brewery did their virtual tasting, co-owner Jack Dyer went into the back before the live presentation only to find they’d sold all the tasting packages. He had to buy his beer at a (fortunately) nearby store.
Visit Ventura is also preparing for the future. Already in place, a multi-layered recovery plan
addressing everything from cautious, responsible recovery, to how to woo visitors in a fiercely competitive market and make those visitors feel comfortable, welcome, and safe.
But, at the moment, it’s all about community. A remarkable community.
“I truly believe that all of us, working together to do the next right thing, will see us through this,” said Auster. “And then, when the time is right, tourism will be the economic driver that sees us back to our feet. But for now community love will see us through.”