In recognition of travel and tourism’s tremendous economic, social and cultural impact on the Santa Maria Valley, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau will celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week with a luncheon and awards ceremony May 4, 2016, at the historic Santa Maria Inn from 12-1:30 p.m.

“National Travel and Tourism Week is a time to thank all of our partners and reflect on the economic impact that tourism bestows upon our city,” said Gina Keough, manager for the VCB.

Keough said that this year is groundbreaking for the city in that Santa Maria has formed a Tourism Marketing District, where all Santa Maria hoteliers added a two percent tax to all overnight stays.

This tax money will be used to provide additional tourism marketing dollars for the Santa Maria Valley. Carl Ribaudo, president of SMG Consulting, was hired by the Chamber of Commerce to lead the process of developing a marketing plan and strategy with these new dollars.  

“At our luncheon, Ribaudo will give an overview of the marketing plan that he wrote for us and an outline of how the Tourism Marketing District works,” Keough said. “We feel this is the perfect subject for the day as we celebrate the amazing impacts that the tourism industry has made on our city and our local economy, and we look forward to what the future holds.”

The luncheon will also feature tourism awards presented by the Santa Maria Valley VCB to those who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in the past year to promote tourism in the Santa Maria Valley. 

This year’s Mayor’s Award will be accepted by Col. Chris Moss, 30 SW Commander, on behalf of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Mayor’s Award honors an organization that has been instrumental in significantly boosting overnight stays in Santa Maria Valley and positively impacting the city’s economy. 

“The sheer multitude of projects happening at Vandenberg Air Force Base has resulted in spikes in our transient occupancy tax receipts during the off season,” Keough said.

Meanwhile, the Robert P. Hatch Excellence in Hospitality Tourism Award will be presented to local winemaker Clarissa Nagy, owner and operator of Nagy Wines.

“She has been very active in using our VCB resources and has also participated in many of our tourism events and meetings. Her support is much appreciated as her involvement has increased Santa Maria’s visibility as a wine country destination,” Keough said.

May 1-7, 2016, marks the 32nd celebration of National Tourism Week, an annual tradition that was established by a congressional resolution in 1983 and first celebrated the following year. This nationwide week of events serves to champion the power of the tourism industry.

The luncheon is open to the public. Tickets are $30 for Chamber of Commerce members and $35 for non-members.

The buffet lunch will feature chicken a la inn, a boneless chicken breast topped with white wine mushroom cream sauce, served with roasted potatoes, green beans and an assortment of dessert choices. Santa Maria Valley wines will be available for purchase.

Reservations may be made at www.SantaMaria.com or by emailing register@santamaria.com. The deadline to reserve is May 2.

Malei Weir represents the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau