OCEANSIDE — City officials and business owners gathered to gear up for the summer visitor season at the annual Tourist Summit May 8.
The summit at the SpringHill Suites kicked off with Mayor Jim Wood tossing a beach ball into the audience, and continued with a focused discussion on how to provide summer visitors a unique and genuine vacation experience.
Leslee Gaul, Visit Oceanside president, said what Oceanside has to offer is a relaxed, easy-going vibe.
“What we can leverage as a city is a welcoming low key atmosphere,” Gaul said. “Oceanside is a casual community, that gives an authentic beach experience. Other cities are more commercialized.”
In national markets Oceanside is branded as San Diego’s north shore.
“It has a strong beach culture with mom and pop businesses,” Gaul said. “It’s not cookie cutter like other communities.”
Gaul said the city serves as a key economic partner with businesses, and does the work of accommodating special events and providing citywide safety.
MainStreet Oceanside promotes downtown businesses, and the Chamber of Commerce promotes businesses citywide.
During the summit city staff and businesses were called upon to act as ambassadors for the city, and help make visitors’ experiences memorable.
As part of that effort MainStreet Oceanside has recently trained and provided identifying T-shirts to volunteer city ambassadors, who will be stationed at a downtown information tent and walking beachfront streets to answer visitors’ questions.
The goal of the summit was to provide those in attendance with useable, take-away ideas on how to successfully promote their business, take advantage of travel trends, and prompt visitors to return to Oceanside.
Keynote speaker and marketing and branding expert Sasha Strauss shared useful tips to create a visitor friendly travel experience. In a nutshell Strauss recommended businesses assume nothing, empathize with visitors, support visitors’ dreams, invest in a relationship with them, teach them something, and care about them.
Business tips focused on promoting a genuine, unique brand in actions, social media, and advertising.
Oceanside has turned the corner and seen a steady growth in hotel transient occupancy tax (TOT) over the past nine years. Last year the city brought in $4 million in TOT.
Within the last nine years two downtown beachfront hotels were built, and more downtown construction continues.
Tourism is a big part of the city’s economy, which also includes industrial development, real estate development, and retail sales.
City Manager Steve Jepsen said now is the time for businesses to move to Oceanside, and get in on the boom.