Lompoc is trying to carve out a bigger piece of the Central Coast tourism pie.
On Feb. 25 Visit Lompoc and its partners are launching the Explore Lompoc marketing program aimed at growing the local tourism economy.
The new program will include destination marketing strategies such as brand development, a website geared toward tourists, social media engagement, digital and traditional advertising and community partnerships including a new grant funding program.
“Tourism is a big part of the economy here and the more we can do to promote activities and events in the Lompoc valley is really important to getting people to stay in the community,” said Teresa Gallavan, economic development director for the city of Lompoc. “The new efforts of the marketing campaign can only increase the number of nights people stay when they come to town.”
The organization expects to have a budget of around $250,000 as a result of a 2 percent tourism fee on hotel stays, the product of a 2013 city council vote approving a Tourism Business Improvement District. The district was spearheaded by area hoteliers and now Visit Lompoc, the organization set up to administer the district, is ready to spend the money it collected throughout last year.
“It looks like we are right on target and we might actually take in a little more,” said Paul Patel, one the city hotel owners and a member of the Visit Lompoc board. “What we’re most excited about is having a new, clean website … Lompoc has never really had anything like that before and the board felt like that was one of the first things we needed to do.”
He said the goal was to have one place that people visiting the city could access and that connected them to all the main activities and attractions. With the help of a recently hired public relations and marketing firm, the organization is buying ad space and developing promotional materials. A $75,000 grant program fund is also part of the launch, allowing other area organizations that bring visitors to the city to apply for funding to cross-promote their events with the city.
Lompoc is located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, but the city of about 43,000 has thus far been best-known as the home of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the largest employer in Santa Maria Valley. Patel said the city is often forgotten, thought to be too out-of-the-way, or just not popular enough to attract more visitors. Still, the price is right, he said. Hotels are typically cheaper and the commute to other destinations is just a short ride away.
City tourism officials boast that nearby flower fields, three area golf courses, Jalama Beach, the La Purisima Mission and the Lompoc Mural Project are still big selling points. The mural project was conceived in 1988 as an economic rebuilding tool and now has close to 30 major commissioned works, with several smaller murals spread around the city.
Patel, whose family has been in the hotel business since 1973, previously told the Business Times that the urban Lompoc wine trail is especially popular with visitors from Los Angeles, which is a target market for the new TBID. The city’s Wine Ghetto, which has about 20 tasting rooms scattered throughout an old industrial park, is another attraction visitors are drawn to, he said.
Visit Lompoc expects to grow its budget to about $400,000 next year. Currently, the organization is working to put together some signature events yet this year. Patel, said the organization is looking to partner with those in the wine and beer industry.
“Our focus in 2015 is have an event to say, this is what Explore Lompoc is all about,” he said. “I’ve been here 42 years and I’ve never seen a budget like this to promote Lompoc. All this money is going right back into the city and I think if we keep going this will be a tremendous boon to Lompoc.”