California tourism shifts focus to residents By Laura Del Rosso / February 12, 2002 Share 1 -- SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- With projections for spring and summer tourism in California down by almost 6%, the state's travel industry is focusing on residents with promotions geared to stimulate interest with discount room nights. Caroline Beteta, director of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, said the final numbers are not yet in for 2001, but preliminary sales-tax figures show the impact of Sept. 11 and the economic slump -- spending on travel and tourism in the state was off by 15% in the fourth quarter."The projections we're getting for 2002 is that leisure travel will be off by 8% to 9% this winter -- and spring and summer may be off by 5.9%," she said.Beteta said the decline in business travel has impacted urban areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco more than other cities. Some areas, such as ski resorts, the wine country region and desert resorts, are doing healthy business because of their dependence on drive-in visitors.The commission, which derives its budget by a unique combination of public and private funding, diverted $5 million last fall from its domestic marketing efforts to an in-state campaign.The second half of that campaign, a radio and TV advertising blitz which uses celebrities such as actor Cheech Marin and distinguished residents such as winemaker Gina Gallo, is running through March.Again, the focus of the campaign is Californians."Because we saw an unprecedented numbers drop, the travel industry knew its best shot was its own residents," Beteta said.The state also has mounted a public relations campaign, which includes a focus on its www.visitcalifornia.com Web site.One new feature of the site is a "California Finds" section, featuring discounts and packages from 800 hotels and tourism-related companies.But the industry hasn't given up on out-of-state visitors. This month, the commission is hosting the California Travel Mart, which is expected to draw 175 international tour operators and industry reporters to San Francisco and the Napa wine country.The state also issued its 2002 California Visitor's Guide and Travel Planner, a 244-page color guide with maps and discount coupons to attractions, and a 2002 California Celebrations guide of 1,200 events throughout the state.Both publications are available by calling (800) 862-2543.