Photo: The Santa Maria Inn, a hotel on California’s central coast, is currently benefiting from a local tourism program.

Can the lure of a gift card to cover the cost of meals and a winery or two attract people to visit and promote local tourism? Leaders in Santa Maria believed it; This Californian city of 100,000 people has come up with a plan that could help support the local economy as we all emerge from the public health, social and economic crises that COVID-19 has left in the United States

Local tourism is shaken, but here’s a way to revive it

The closed small businesses and restaurants across the country together paint a sad portrait of massive local tourism, and the workers who depend on it have suffered over the past year. For any cretin who viewed stimulus check as a means of booking a cheap trip abroad, there are still thousands who are still skeptical about taking a road trip until the country reaches true herd immunity.

But while America’s largest corporations, many of which did reasonably well during the pandemic, say they “stand” with local communities, here’s some food for thought: why not put your money where their public statements are and help to fund local tourism incentives? Packages to encourage people to visit smaller cities across America?

La Purísima Mission, half an hour’s drive from Santa Maria in nearby Lompoc

Santa Maria is the perfect laboratory to find out if such a program can work. The city in northern Santa Barbara is famous for the 2004 film Sideways, which is legendary for how the character Sandra played Oh kicked the crap out of Jack. Wine lovers know the movie and Santa Maria for the region’s Pinot Noir wine.

And therein lies the challenge that Santa Maria faces. First, as more people travel again, they will flock to the usual places: Miami, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Las Vegas and so on. At the local level, Santa Maria competes with Santa Barbara, Ojai, Pismo Beach, and Big Sur for those tourist dollars. Then there’s the wine factor: Sure, the Santa Maria Pinots consistently get rave reviews, but in addition to Napa and Sonoma, the Golden State also offers regions such as Mendocino, Paso Robles, Temecula and Livermore.

Santa Maria and the surrounding area offer more than just wine. A 30-minute drive will take you to beaches, walks and old historical sites. For foodies, Tri-Tip, the cut of beef that made Santa Maria the barbecue capital of California, can’t be missed. The city also has many taquerias and Mexican restaurants where you can enjoy dishes like birria (steamed goat). The nearby shore also offers fresh seafood.

Oysters and scallops were harvested on the nearby shores of Santa Barbara County

Promoting the area requires more than clever marketing and social media campaigns, however, and this is where the “Santa Maria Valley Stimulus Promotion” comes in.

TriplePundit decided to see what it was about.

You have to spend a little money to get the visitors to spend even more

The process was easy. Potential guests only had to visit the local chambers Tourism website and book a minimum stay of two nights at a participating hotel or guest house. After visitors sent a PDF of the reservation to the chamber, they were told to expect a package once they got to Santa Maria and checked in.

The program is good until the end of March, but it’s already sold out: it didn’t take long for 500 people to join the program.

The package included a food, wine tasting, and visit booklet – the vast majority of the places mentioned were local, including a map of a “taco trail” that advertised the local taquerias in Santa Maria. It also included a $ 100 Visa gift card that can be used anywhere. It comprised 5 meals in local restaurants – 3 pence can attest it is triple.

Yes, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) stayed here at the Santa Maria Inn.Yes, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) stayed here at the Santa Maria Inn.

The rest of the itinerary is up to the visitor. 3p stayed in the historical Santa Maria Inn where Hollywood starsThe golden era, including Charle Chaplin, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Marilyn Monroe, often stayed in en route to extravagant soirees Hearst Castleanother 75 miles northwest along Californias Coastal Highway 1. The doors to hotel rooms across the property are adorned with star-shaped plaques commemorating people who slept there, including William Randolph Hearst and Marian Davies, his mistress, for whom he built his homonymous property. 3p was good happy enough to score points for this room – unfortunately the room where Aunt Mame (Rosalind Russel) had celebrated was already booked.

A way for big companies to think smaller and more local

More options, most of which are only 30 minutes away, are included La Purísima Mission State Historical Park, the 11th of the 21 Franciscan missions the Spaniards built when they took over California. There are plenty of hiking trails in the vicinity of communities like nearby Orcutt, which exudes an old west vibe, or Guadalupe, where you can be guided through spectacular sand dunes.

While the experiences this local tourism stimulus package provided were very local, the list of sponsors spanned a wide range of businesses, both local and national. Companies that have contributed to the program include Dignity Health, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and Wells Fargo, as well as local auto dealerships and retailers associated with Americas largest company.

More and more companies are speaking there Community, local tourism programs like this Santa MariaThe successfully introduced executives offer companies an idea of ​​how they can contribute to a local cause – and at the same time help to stimulate the local economy.

Photo credit: Leon Kaye