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17 Feb  

After Stormy Weather, This Forecast is Good

By Ellis O’Connor, Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

Bike Path

Photo by Sondra Stocker

Like most Santa Monica businesspeople, I was thrilled to hear recent forecasts of a predicted upswing in international tourism this year. After a two-year decline, the number of travelers from overseas—representing roughly half our visitor population—is expected to tick upward in 2010 and truly rebound in 2011. We love tourists of all stripes in Santa Monica, but visitors from outside the U.S. are especially important to our local economy for three simple reasons. First, they’re not just in for the weekend; most have come quite a ways and tend to stick around for longer than domestic tourists do. Second, if they’re doing well enough to visit from overseas, they often have a little money to spend while they’re here. And three, they don’t bring cars, so they rely more on public transportation. Minimizing traffic helps everyone get around faster.

For hotels like Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows, which I represent, international travelers and their extended stays are truly the lifeblood of our business. Though occupancy percentages are still in the high 70’s, Santa Monica hotel revenues are down from 15 to 18 percent compared to 2008. That means it’s essential that we are proactive about making Santa Monica a destination of choice for people in countries including England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau is doing just that. With PR and sales departments based in London and Dublin, SMCVB actively pursues meetings and incentives business from the to promote our city to journalists, tour operators, travel agents, giving influencers plenty to talk about when the subject of Santa Monica arises. The message to the world is, “good business can be done on the beach!”

Back in Santa Monica, we’re keenly aware that the best thing we can do is send our guests home happy. These days, the competition for travelers is fierce, so now more than ever we focus on providing a great guest experience. It seems to be working, as hotel room nights are up so far this year. Exciting pieces of annual business like the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open and the Los Angeles Marathon plus a visit from a large Australian incentive group are making hoteliers like us breathe a little easier. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned since the economic downturn began, it’s that aggressive marketing, and delivering a great product, is the only way to go!

16 Feb  

Get Out There and Enjoy!

By Nancy Desser

Photo by Sondra Stocker

As a 28-year resident of Santa Monica, and Chair of the Community Relations Committee of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about how blessed I am to get to call Santa Monica my home.

There are obvious things like the fabulous mild temperate weather (my sister lives in Baltimore, so I know this to be true!), and then there are the amazing array of activities, restaurants, shops, and general environmental benefits that residents and tourists alike are able to enjoy and which make Santa Monica so special. Many of these perks are possible because of revenue collected from the hotel bed tax that goes to the City’s General Fund and supports our schools, parks and public safety programs, so it is to everyone’s advantage if we as a community, are actively engaged in the elements of tourism in our city. We invite all residents’ to act as an ambassador or a part of a welcome campaign, to share your knowledge and love for Santa Monica with others.

Fellow Santa Monicans, and visitors alike—get out there and enjoy all that our innovative city has to offer!

16 Feb  

Who is Santa Monica?

By Fabian Lewkowicz

I Am Santa Monica

It’s so satisfying to encounter a traveler from abroad and ease their confusion in an unfamiliar city, introduce them to a wonderful local experience they may not otherwise have had, and with the simplest of gestures—a welcoming smile—give them a good impression of the people here.

As a proud graduate of the “I Am Santa Monica” program, I wish that every one of our city’s roughly 16,000 hospitality professionals could reap the benefits of this amazing educational experience. It’s one of those rare opportunities that are both free and virtually priceless!

Let me explain. My name is Fabian Lewkowicz and I’m a Santa Monica resident and small business owner. I always knew that customer service was important. If your first job was working the register at McDonald’s when you were a kid, you probably learned that lesson before your first paycheck cleared. But “I Am Santa Monica” is something special. Even the city’s Fire Chief can participate and get something out of it, as our own Jim Hone did.

So what is it, exactly? It’s an interactive learning program familiarizes you with everything that makes our small section of the Los Angeles area a unique destination brand. It’s also a comprehensive course on phenomenal customer service for local employees and those wishing to join their ranks.

First, a one-hour bus tour fills your head with fun facts about the city. Did you know that the very first Academy Awards ceremony was held at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium? Or that Google’s office here is the company’s top choice among new hires? I could go on and on, but then again, so could any graduate of this program! Thanks to the clear and accessible way information is presented to participants, these tidbits and many more really stick with you.

Created in 2008 through the combined efforts of city, college and business leaders, this program has already minted more than 1,500 official “Santa Monica Ambassadors” who represent 50 different businesses, organizations and city departments. Everyone from waiters and concierges to city employees have been empowered to speak knowledgeably about their city and help our guests to enjoy everything it has to offer. After all, the city’s economic health depends on tourists, and this program empowers each of us to play our part in making Santa Monica special for them. Good memories for our visitors mean good business for us.

15 Feb  

Why I Love Santa Monica

By West Hooker-Poletti, Locanda del Lago

I love Santa Monica…because in August Italy comes to me. On a warm August night I walked the restaurant’s dining room and stopped to greet tables as I often do. An hour into it, I realized that every single guest I had met was Italian, and not a local Italian…they were all visitors from Italy. Adding to it that the hostess was Italian, three waiters were Italian, and the Italian chef was in the kitchen expediting the food, I did not have to speak a single word of English for the rest of the evening…I felt as if I was living in my hometown Bellagio, a summer resort on Lake Como, Italy!

11 Feb  

Team Play Changed This Game

By Ben Franz-Knight

Ohio State Pep Rally

Photo by Fitz Carlile

There’s no question 2009 was a tough year economically both on the local and national level, and the tourist trade was certainly not immune. Playing as a team, the City of Santa Monica, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Santa Monica Pier made possible a full year of activities and celebrations that raised awareness and drew much needed visitors. Notable events included the Centennial of the Pier, Cirque du Soleil, the unveiling of the historic “Route 66 End of the Trail” sign and a last-minute rally with the clock ticking down on New Years Eve!  In an exciting final play worthy of a classic football game, both participants in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State and the University of Oregon, held their pregame pep rallies at the Santa Monica Pier. Nothing pumps revenue into the local economy like 40,000 excited out-of-town fans, and for two days you couldn’t walk on the beach without seeing people wearing the Buckeyes’ scarlet and gray or the Ducks’ green and yellow. And these folks didn’t stick to the sand—merchants on the pier, nearby restaurants and shops, and of course the Third Street Promenade were all beneficiaries of our sports-minded visitors’ business.

This was the first year we’ve hosted both Rose Bowl teams in Santa Monica, but with any luck, it won’t be the last. As Executive Director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation, I oversee events at the Pier and often partner with Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau. With the Pier’s Centennial year and iconic Ferris wheel as the backdrop, we actually pitched our city to the Rose Bowl tour operators back in April of 2009. Given Santa Monica’s iconic views and relaxed beach vibe, it wasn’t a tough sell. We’re very lucky to live somewhere that says “Southern California” everywhere you look! It’s always a big advantage for this town and I know it was a deciding factor for the schools.

As we all hoped, local vendors scored big from the influx of football fans. In terms of numbers, an estimated $16 million dollars flowed through the city on the 30th and 31st of December (with the ongoing benefit lasting many days more). The rallies were held in the north parking lot and it seemed like almost everyone went for a stroll on the pier or ventured inland. We all need to eat—and it’s not unheard of for football fans to drink—so local restaurants and bars got a welcome pre-game lift. It’s safe to say the hotels enjoyed the spike in occupancy as well. Every time we get an event like this, the benefits are essentially citywide. In 2009 we certainly learned that team play and a good offensive plan can be the best defense, even in the face of a tough opponent like the current economic slump. For 2010 we invite you to join the team, bring your support, your ideas and your enthusiasm, together we can continue our winning efforts for one of the best teams around – Team Santa Monica!


The opinions of this blog are that of the contributors and do not necessarily depict the position of Santa Monica Convention &
Visitors Bureau. Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau reserves the right to edit or refuse any submitted information.

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