SACRAMENTO — Californians these days are seeing dreamy, romantic TV commercials inviting them to visit ... California.
The ad campaign, with the theme “California: Find yourself here,” marks the first time state tourism officials have run a promotion aimed at encouraging Californians to enjoy their own state.
The goal is to make up for the drop-off in international and out-of-state tourism attributed to the recession and the terrorist attacks.
Across the country, state and local officials are trying revive their tourism industries as travelers postpone or cancel travel plans.
New York has launched a star-studded campaign featuring Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other natives such as Barbara Walters, Billy Crystal, Woody Allen and Robert DeNiro. And the nation’s capital is appealing to Americans’ patriotism with a campaign with the theme “Be Inspired.”
The first ad in the $5 million California campaign features images of couples walking on the beach at sunset and picnicking in the Napa Valley under the words “Find yourself ... laughing.”
“I love it. It’s so much of what we sell,” said Daniel Howard, executive director of the Napa Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. California’s wine region is usually a must-see site, but like the rest of the state, it is experiencing a drop in travelers since Sept. 11.
Immediately after the attacks, California saw a 50 percent drop in tourism. The numbers have climbed back somewhat since then but are still 10 percent lower than last year, said Norman Williams, assistant secretary of marketing for the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency.
“It’s primarily in hotel reservations and attractions. A lot of it has to do with a fear of travel,” Williams said.
The state had no breakdown on overseas, out-of-state and in-state tourists.
The first ad in the California campaign, featuring couples, debuted during Thanksgiving week and is expected to reach 90 percent of the state’s residents.
“All of our ads up until this point have been trying to attract people into California,” Williams said.
The ads are “reassuring, comforting, which is what we need now. It sends the message that it’s comforting to travel together,” Howard said.
The tourism industry is California’s third largest-employer, with more than 1.1 million workers, and brings in about $75.4 billion annually.
The city of San Francisco saw a drop in hotel occupancy rates of nearly 40 percent over the previous year, said Laurie Armstrong, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. In response, the city has started its own ad campaign to lure Northern California visitors.
Similarly, Leslie Goodman, senior vice president of strategic communications at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said the theme park is promoting deals for Southern Californians to make up for a loss in distant visitors.
“People aren’t canceling their vacations, they’re deferring them,” Goodman said. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, we can have a great time right here at home.”’
On the Net:
The California Division of Tourism: http://www.gocalif.ca.gov