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Business

Industry Leaders Talk California Tourism Over Lunch

Keynote speaker says Santa Barbara's desirability makes it a pillar for attracting visitors to the state

Caroline Beteta, president of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, was the keynote speaker at Thursday’s annual tourism luncheon at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Montecito.

The luncheon kicked off with a comical rendition of the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” or the spin “Santa Barbara’s California.”

“Welcome to Santa Barbara’s California, such a lovely place, all style and grace,” an entertainer sang as he walked around the resort’s Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club with a microphone and acoustic guitar while the crowd joined in. “Livin’ it up in Santa Barbara’s California, anytime of year you can bring family here.”

Jeanette Webber, managing partner of the Santa Barbara Hotel Group, took the microphone next, describing what tourism has meant to her family. The Webbers opened their first hotel in 1952.

“People understand here that it’s not the hotels that bring people to Santa Barbara, it’s the experience,” she said.

Next was Beteta, who emphasized the importance of tourism on the state level and the CTTC’s five-year business plan that will continue to promote California as a premier destination.

“California is the only state in the nation that is entirely supported by the tourism industry,” Beteta said.

In 2010, travel spending rose 7.4 percent, and tourism-related state and local taxes increased 7 percent. The tourism sector grew more jobs statewide than any other sector in December last year.

“We are the bright spot in the California economy, and the catalyst in improving the well-being of Californians,” Beteta said.

Marketing strategies were the highlights of Beteta’s speech, which she said are critical to promote California and support the sector.

She said it’s the California culture people are attracted to — when people think of California, they see a guy in an Armani suit and flip-flops with a surfboard in one hand and a briefcase in the other.

“Tourism is the top one or two industries in every rural county,” she said. “Tourism has come in and been a lifesaver for rural economies because their incredible cultural assets can’t be sustained by the local community themselves. That’s where the visitor is essential.”

Beteta’s five-year business plan includes branding, platform, engagement and international reach. She said the CTTC is lucky to have Santa Barbara as a pillar for California tourism because it’s one of the most desired places on Earth.

“The unique lifestyle we lead is quite monetized in helping propel a recovery of California” she said, “and is here to stay.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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