Actors used to jump-start tourism

By Simon Avery The Associated Press
Wednesday December 19, 2001

LOS ANGELES — California dropped a few names and some big bucks into its latest ad campaign aimed at boosting the state’s slumping tourism. 

Gov. Gray Davis unveiled a 30-second television commercial Tuesday featuring actors Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson that urges people to start traveling again following the September terrorist attacks in New York. 

“Get out there,” says a leisurely Eastwood from the Pebble Beach golf course. 

Nicholson weighs in from courtside at Staples Center in Los Angeles. All work and no play “makes Jack a dull boy,” he says with his trademark grin. 

The ad, which also features world champion freestyle skier Glen Plake and restaurateur Michael Chow, will run in California and Mexico as part of a $7.5 million campaign, the second round of tourism marketing by the state since the attacks. 

In October, the government spent $5 million on print, radio and TV ads — its first attempt ever at encouraging Californians to enjoy their own state. 

Immediately following Sept. 11, California saw a 50 percent drop in tourism. The numbers have bounced back but are still 10 percent lower than last year, according to the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency. 

Davis said the latest campaign is more upbeat than the dreamy, sunset tone of the first. It’s designed to be a shot in the arm to the hospitality industry, which has lost thousands of jobs in the last three months, he said. 

“American soldiers are fighting overseas and we’re fighting back here to restore the economy,” he said before debuting the ad at a red-carpet ceremony outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. 

California’s Economic Development Department is funding the promotion with existing money, the governor’s office said. Davis has proposed $2.24 billion in cuts to the current state budget after forecasts that the next budget could produce a $12.4 billion deficit. 

Locals on Hollywood Boulevard said they supported the marketing campaign. 

“I’m not particularly afraid of travel myself. But this is a good idea. Popular people can be opinion leaders,” said Robby Downing, a student living in Los Angeles. 

“It can’t hurt,” added Jerry Perchesky, an L.A.-based actor who travels regularly up to Monterey Bay to see family. “But a lot depends on the economy.” 

Tourism is California’s third largest industry, worth $74.9 billion annually, and it generates $5 billion a year in tax revenue. It employs more than 1.1 million people. 

The latest ad follows a similar promotional effort by New York, which featured celebrities Barbara Walters, Billy Crystal, Woody Allen and Robert DeNiro.