Digital Influencers deepen connections and expand reach for California

California is synonymous with authenticity, and one way to optimize on that foundational aspect of the state’s identity is by tapping real people to lend their voices and amplify that message.

In FY16/17, Visit California’s digital influencer marketing efforts did just that, delivering authentic and engaging content to audiences spanning the globe with the help of some of each market’s top trendsetters and personalities.

Year-round, members of the global PR team cultivate vital relationships with key digital influencers to give the California brand a local voice in international markets. As an essential part of the overall media mix that includes traditional print and broadcast media, digital influencers are integrated into most PR activity.

Digital influencer content – designed to deepen the connection between social media users and the Golden State – fueled inspiration by amplifying Visit California’s marketing programs and experience pillars this past year. The approach in working with digital influencers is editorially driven, meaning that they are treated similarly to traditional media.

Successful social media campaign shows #CATourism at Work

As part of 2017 California Tourism Month, Visit California turned to the tourism and hospitality industry to highlight the staff members throughout the Golden State that help make tourism a reality. By sharing their stories on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, industry partners put faces to the “why travel matters” message, which the industry celebrated in unity last month.

And the travel industry shared, liked and retweeted in force. From destination teams like Visit Redding, Visit Oceanside and Ventura County Coast, hospitality talent comprising baristas, chefs, sales departments and vintners, to regional mascots and even the governor’s very own First Dog, Colusa Brown, the hashtag #CATourism was used to create a compilation that showcases the people who strive to create exceptional travel experiences.

The hashtag was used almost 400 times, with more than 23,000 total engagements across the three social media channels.

Share your story for 2017 California Tourism Month with #CATourism at Work

Share your #CATourism story

Industry partners across the state can get involved in California Tourism Month in May by sharing the faces and stories of those behind the Golden State’s unforgettable travel experiences.

California’s unparalleled destinations and forward-thinking businesses shine year-round, but May will be a chance to showcase the individuals who truly make #CATourism a reality.

Introducing #CATourism at Work.

The new statewide social campaign is a chance for industry partners to highlight staff members and to put faces to the “why travel matters” message in communities across the state. 

How to get involved

  1. Share photos of staff at work via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the Team California app.
  2. Tag with #CATourism.
  3. Repeat

Share photos throughout the month ­– from hotel front desk staff greeting visitors to chefs crafting the perfect dish to working behind the scenes at the state’s attractions and everything in between.

This campaign is an easy and interactive way to showcase the people who constantly strive to create the experiences that define travel to California for visitors from around the globe.

Help Visit California share #CATourism with the world.

'Kidifornia' comes to life in New York City through giant sand sculpture

Through a collaboration with award-winning sand sculptor Todd Vander Pluym, Visit California commissioned a 40-ton, 12-foot-tall sand sculpture at South Street Seaport in New York City. To help promote Visit California’s new family campaign, 'Kidifornia,' the massive sculpture depicted family-friendly icons throughout the state, including amusement parks, beaches, sea life, Redwood trees and more.

Despite blizzard conditions, several feet of snow and below-freezing temperatures, the sculpture was masterfully completed, successfully engaging strategic New York City and family media and consumers alike, enticing them with thoughts of warm temperatures in the Golden State. 

Broadcast coverage included a report on NBC 4, two live segments from South Street Seaport on the PIX 11 morning news and a segment with New York Live host Ben Aaron, which was also published on the organization’s website and social channels. Coverage also ran in New York City taxis for 14.5 hours over March 22-23, generating a total of 100,000 impressions. These airings not only encouraged local New Yorkers to visit the sand sculpture but also raised awareness of the Kidifornia campaign and California’s family friendly experiences.   

2017 Outlook Forum: International insights underscore destinations’ shared challenges, successes

Tourism is a competitive business, and destination marketing organizations around the globe are constantly creating strategies to help their destination rise to the top of potential visitors’ bucket lists.

But given the success of so many of these programs, capacity has quickly become a very real concern in many places – and in some cases is even threatening the visitor experience.

At 2017 Outlook Forum, DMO leaders from three of the world’s most in-demand destinations took the stage for a lively conversation about finding the perfect balance among growing their businesses, the preservation of cultural and natural resources, and the growing demand for authentic visitor experiences.

Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta led the panel, which featured: Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director of Tourism at Promote Iceland; Paul Sloan, CEO of Tahiti Tourisme; and Roger Valencia, Tourism Deputy Minister at Visit Peru.

The discussion shined a light on an issue that leaders of many California destinations find themselves already facing in their own backyards: That cities throughout the Golden State reach capacity during peak travel seasons and often get pushback from residents who feel that tourists are harming their quality of life.

The three panelists echoed this sentiment, though the nuances of their market situations and the ways in which they address the challenges varied.

Unlock the power of Team California for 2017 Outlook Forum

Everything you need to get the most out of 2017 Outlook Forum fits right in the palm of your hand with the Team California app.

Available from the App Store and Google Play, Team California is the most immersive and interactive way to experience the California travel and tourism industry’s premier event Feb. 27-28. And with so much to do in the American Riviera, the app is both a must-have guide for everything Outlook Forum and an invaluable resource for engaging, sharing and networking with speakers and fellow attendees during the conference.

Team California is a one-stop shop for attendees looking to get the most out of their time in Santa Barbara, filled with detailed information regarding sessions, speakers, transportation options and locals’ recommendations on what to do and where to eat. Up-to-the-minute updates and a customizable schedule help ensure that attendees won’t miss a beat throughout the packed two days of sessions and events.



Famed California climber dreams big and summits iconic Toronto museum

World-famous climber Kevin Jorgeson made history for the second time in as many years when, on Oct. 27, when he became the first person to summit the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal in Toronto.

Nearly 200 spectators and members of the media turned out to witness the feat, which Visit California orchestrated as a consumer activation as part of the 2016 Canada Sales & Media Mission.

The climb took a fraction of the time as the now-legendary ascent that made Jorgeson a household name. In January 2015, Jorgeson and climbing partner Tommy Caldwell made history by becoming the first climbers in the world to free climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite Valley – a 3,000-foot, nearly featureless face of sheer granite previously considered impossible to free climb.

After six years of preparation and 19 days on the wall, Jorgeson and Caldwell looked down on the Yosemite Valley from the Dawn Wall’s peak, surrounded by champagne-toasting friends, family, reporters and spectators, but completely alone in their accomplishment.

Whether in some of the most remote reaches of the natural world or in the heart of a thriving metropolis, Jorgeson has time and time again proven that no peak is out of reach. The 32-year-old Santa Rosa native began climbing as a toddler and was ranked as the top climber in his age group at 19.

Destination Third Thursday: Visit Napa Valley

Known for its culture, arts, and world-acclaimed wineries and restaurants, Visit Napa Valley delivered a fantastic Destination Third Thursday presentation at Visit California HQ in July, detailing the area’s abundance of year-round indoor and outdoor activities.

Located roughly an hour north of San Francisco, Napa Valley includes the towns of Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, Napa, Lake Berryessa and American Canyon. These easily accessible gems – Napa is only 35 miles long and about three miles wide – are known for their undeniable uniqueness from one another, yet together they make up the region’s enticing feel.

And, of course, you can’t say “Napa” without thinking of wine. Tourists travel from all over the world to indulge in the valley’s world-renowned wineries.

“We have more than 500 wineries here,” Clay Gregory, President and CEO of Visit Napa Valley said. “Ninety-five percent of those are family-owned, and they’re accessible. People want intimate experiences.”

Destination Third Thursday: CA Historic Route 66 Association

Destination Third Thursday Spotlight: CALIFORNIA’S ROUTE 66

Destination Third Thursday: Destination Lancaster

In the opening scenes of the Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” a devastated bride’s wedding day is thwarted in a small chapel, stopped by a vengeful ex-lover unwilling to let her go.

The Two Pines Church in Lancaster, California stood in for a small Texas chapel in the hit two-part film, a sign of the city’s growing transformation from a small desert town into a desirable Southern California getaway.

Clear blue skies, wide open spaces and proximity to Los Angeles have drawn filmmakers, visitors and new residents to Lancaster in recent years. (The movie “Fast and Furious 7” also filmed scenes in the area.) With a long roster of events ranging from the Los Angeles County Air Show to the California Poppy Festival, Lancaster is becoming a central hub for Southern California visitors looking to explore more of the state.

“We’re in the high desert, about an hour-and-a-half from any type of environment,” said Angela Riley, Executive Director of Destination Lancaster. “It’s really convenient. Heading from every direction, we have great California escapes at your fingertips.”

Experience California: Boot Camp gives Texas media inside look at Golden State

Visit California held its first Experience California: Boot Camp April 7–8 in Austin, Texas. The immersive, 24-hour experience gave Texas area-media a taste of the Golden State and provided 12 industry partners the opportunity to showcase their destinations.

"It really put California front and center for us as a destination we need to be covering,” said Louis Marroquin, Managing Editor of Private Clubs Magazine. He added that the event allowed him to connect with partners in more ways than a typical luncheon. "I look forward to expanding on the relationships that began during the boot camp."

Visit California developed the boot camp in response to a need expressed by destination partners to implement media engagement platforms outside the media hubs of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Most domestic media markets outside of the hubs do not offer a viable ratio of media to destination partners, presenting an initial challenge. The media boot camp brought top-tier editorial decision makers and content creators within a region to a central location for an engaging overnight program.

The boot camp drew media from across Texas, including local Austin media, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, along with key journalists from Louisiana. 

Destination Third Thursday: Mono County Economic Development & Film Commission

Outdoor adventures abound in California’s Eastern Sierras and while some are drawn to the region’s solitude, Mono County Economic Development and Film Commission is spreading the word about the area’s beautiful natural landscapes to bring in more visitors.

“We’re the best kept secret in California,” said Alicia Vennos, Mono County Economic Development Director and Film Commissioner. “People have a hard time thinking past Tahoe. When they do come a little bit farther southeast it’s more magnificent than expected. We access wilderness really quickly here. Folks are just astounded.”

Mono County Economic Development and Film Commission delivered a Destination Third Thursday presentation at the Visit California headquarters on April 21, highlighting the destination’s attractions and variety of year-round outdoor activities. Tourism is the No. 1 economic driver in Mono County, contributing $534 million in local spending. In contrast, Mono County’s second largest industry, agriculture, brought in $48 million.

Located near Yosemite National Park, Mono County includes the towns of Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Lee Vining, Benton, Walker/Coleville and Bridgeport, the county seat.

2016 California Road Trips - Revamped guide features new Golden State adventures

Visit California’s 2016 California Road Trips guide is hot off the presses, featuring fresh new itineraries for visitors to find their own spectacular “Dream Drives.”

This year’s guide echoes the modern look of California’s 2016 Official Visitors Guide and features a cover image of a day hiker poised on a rock, pointing at a stunning view of Burney Falls at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in the Shasta Cascade region.

The 2016 edition covers all 12 tourism regions and includes four day trips, three weekend getaways and a grand tour, an ultimate adventure road trip winding through the Golden State’s national and state parks.

Each of the day trips begin at a gateway destination with designated stops at unexpected destinations to give visitors a deeper glimpse into California’s offerings. Itineraries include: A Southern California desert escape to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park, an alpine escape to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, a coastal trip through Central California’s beach towns and wine regions and a Northern California journey from the San Francisco Bay Area to Squaw Valley in the Sierra Nevada.

Partners spotlight Golden State at Time California Editor’s Dinner


Over bites of California cuisine and sips of Sonoma County wine, nearly a dozen members of the state’s travel and tourism industry networked with influential editors of high-profile publications at an intimate dinner in New York City. 

The event, held March 21, was made possible through Visit California’s distinctive partnership with Time California, a special branch of Time Inc., one of the world’s leading publishers. The idea of connecting the industry and Time’s editorial staff was sparked last year and planned by Visit California’s public relations team and partner Development Counsellors International (DCI).

The evening began with an opening toast from Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta, and Norman Pearlstine. Nathan Lump, Editor of Travel+Leisure, also provided opening remarks and noted a new key trend in travel coverage – a focus on experiences.

Chef Vincent Lesage of the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara prepared the seven-course meal inspired by the state’s diverse regions and culinary abundance, which featured fresh California ingredients flown to New York City for the dinner.  Food & Wine Editor Nilou Motamed, who shadowed Chef Lesage as he cooked, introduced the food and wine pairings at dinner as each course was served. Lobster tacos inspired by San Diego cuisine topped the list of favorite dishes, according to attendees.

California destinations featured on 'Sunrise'

Australians checking their local weather report were recently treated to panoramic waterfront views of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles when California was featured on “Sunrise,” the country’s No. 1 morning show.

The coverage coincided with the relaunch of Visit California’s brand advertising campaign in Australia in mid-January.

Filmed over two days, the segments featured Australian TV host James Tobin delivering live weather reports at each location. The Los Angeles spots were filmed at the Terranea , a coastal resort featured in the opening shots of Visit California’s “Dreamers-Board Shorts” commercial in Australia. (The commercial is similar to Visit California’s “Average Joes” commercial shown throughout the United States). In the Santa Barbara spots, Tobin sampled local seafood including sea urchin and local wines. The segment also tied into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and included a nod to California’s celebrity culture.

California destinations featured on “Sunrise”

Australians checking their local weather report were recently treated to panoramic waterfront views of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles when California was featured on “Sunrise,” the country’s No. 1 morning show.

The coverage coincided with the relaunch of Visit California’s brand advertising campaign in Australia in mid-January.

Filmed over two days, the segments featured Australian TV host James Tobin delivering live weather reports at each location. The Los Angeles spots were filmed at the Terranea , a coastal resort featured in the opening shots of Visit California’s “Dreamers-Board Shorts” commercial in Australia. (The commercial is similar to Visit California’s “Average Joes” commercial shown throughout the United States). In the Santa Barbara spots, Tobin sampled local seafood including sea urchin and local wines. The segment also tied into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and included a nod to California’s celebrity culture.

Australia is California’s third largest international market, with 594,000 visitors traveling from down under to the Golden State in 2015, spending approximately $925 million. “Sunrise” captures an average weekly audience of 2.9 million in Australia, providing exposure to both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

Destination Third Thursday: Team San Jose

Destination Third Thursday

Team San Jose delivered an energetic and innovative Destination Third Thursday presentation to Visit California on March 17, bringing to life the history, diversity and evolution of Silicon Valley’s capital city.

To tell the story of California’s third-largest populated city, the organization’s staff dressed up as key figures in San Jose history, including famed California winemaker Paul Draper, former United States Secretary of Transportation Norman T. Mineta, Heiress Sarah Winchester, owner of the Winchester Mystery House, a California Historic Landmark that she believed to be haunted by the ghosts of people killed with Winchester rifles and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

“San Jose is home and traditionally has been home to many dreamers and innovators,” said Laura Chmielewski, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Team San Jose (dressed up as in costume as Paul Draper.)

And the award goes to...California

All eyes were on California for the star-studded 88th Annual Academy Awards Feb. 28. Leading up to the highly anticipated event, Visit California gave travelers to the Golden State a taste of the Hollywood glitz and glamour through its creative website content.

California is featured in countless films, with many iconic hotels acting as backdrop. To showcase some of these locations, Visit California created an article offering consumers its nominations for hotels worthy of their own Oscar.  This creative piece of content was able to tie popular cinematic moments with accommodations statewide, and encouraged visitors to create their own big screen adventures.

In addition, Visit California was able to work with Megan Hayes, award-winning actor from the Hunger Games series, as its very own  movie industry insider. After rubbing elbows with Oscar-nominated celebs at the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier this year, she picked her favorites for the big winners for the Oscars, giving readers behind-the-scenes insight into California’s elite actors and actresses.

California feels the force with statewide Star Wars adventures

In a galaxy far, far away, Droids, Jedi and Wookiees battled on the silver screen when the highly-anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” premiered this past December. And, in the Golden State, there are plenty of opportunities for fans to go behind the scenes at movie-themed attractions, events and destinations.

To showcase the state’s many exciting Star Wars experiences, Visit California created social media (which generated nearly 200,000 impressions and over 8,000 engagements) and website content highlighting DIY Star Wars Experiences in California, where, among other activities, visitors can train as Jedi pilots in Sacramento and Anaheim, tour the largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world at Rancho Obi-Wan in Sonoma, or search for Ewoks in the North Coast redwoods. Another article describes the ideal California Vacation for Star Wars icons such as Death Valley for Darth Vader, Mammoth Lakes for Yoda, San Diego for Luke Skywalker or Santa Barbara for Han Solo and Princess Leia.