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California tourism commission aims to draw foreigners

Written by editor

The California Travel & Tourism Commission is going to the ends of the Earth to lure visitors to the Golden State.

The California Travel & Tourism Commission is going to the ends of the Earth to lure visitors to the Golden State.

Sacramento-based CTTC, which develops and implements marketing programs in partnership with the state’s travel industry, approved a $50 million marketing budget for fiscal 2009-10 during its daylong meeting Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento downtown.

A healthy portion of the money, $18.1 million, is directed at tourists outside the United States, with the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and China targeted with sizable sums.

Marketing in the United Kingdom was allotted the largest share โ€“ $6.3 million.

“CTTC and the (travel/tourism) industry are very interested in the potential growth in international markets,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of CTTC.

It recently opened offices in China, for which $830,000 was earmarked on Tuesday. The commission also budgeted $1 million to market California to prospective visitors from Germany, who were targeted earlier this year when CTTC expanded its Web site.

During Tuesday’s meeting, CTTC members pointed to movements within China and South Korea to reduce overseas travel restrictions โ€“ a potential bonanza for California. The commission budgeted $850,000 for South Korea-based programs.

Although there was some debate Tuesday over how much money should be directed at specific countries, there was general support for the international outreach.

For example, ski industry officials pointed out that 80 percent of the world’s skiers reside outside North America, and industry studies have shown that many international skiers favor California’s resort amenities over those in Europe.

Beteta said marketing efforts will spread over various media, but a trend toward more use of online marketing will continue.

Beteta said travel/tourism industry officials are hoping for global economic recovery in the short term, “but we found last year that the industry did not want us to pull back because of the economy. They wanted (CTTC) to continue its efforts even as some of them were pulling back.”

CTTC said annual travel and tourism expenditures in California total about $100 billion annually, providing jobs for nearly 1 million residents.