Tourist Tuesday — Sonoma County

This was sent out as part of a mailing by VisitCalifornia.com. They also mentioned MoCo’s sustainable moments campaign — which is mostly just “talk” or website rather than action. I like what Sonoma County is doing, and suggest we can learn from them. It is not a complete solution, but may be one link in a real chain of sustainability that includes more than just talk about what it is. We have TONS more tourists than ever, but the businesses here in Big Sur are not getting the business. Promote our local businesses, not Bixby Bridge or McWay falls. This has to change. The nature of the tourist has to change. The quality of the tourist has to change. Tourists are welcome here, just not idiots.

Sonoma County

Sonoma County Tourism (SCT) recently announced its shift from a Destination Marketing Organization to a Destination Stewardship Organization as part of its commitment to amplifying tourism’s positive role in the local community and environment. 

“Sales and marketing will remain very important for our organization,” said Director of Global Media Relations Birgitt Vaughan. “But everything will really stand on promoting our area to travelers who look for an experience that aligns with the values of stewardship and responsible travel.”

Sonoma County is positioned to become America’s first 100 percent sustainable wine region this year, a goal undertaken by Sonoma County Winegrowers five years ago in 2014. In partnership with SCT, green and white branded “Sonoma County Sustainable” signs posted at vineyards and wineries declare to travelers and locals the commitment to agricultural heritage and environmental stewardship. 

SCT launched a two-year partnership with Kind Traveler in August. This first-of-its-kind hotel booking platform unlocks special rates, perks and amenities in exchange for a $10 per night donation to a local charity within Sonoma County. 

Guests are incentivized with perks such as a complimentary bottle of wine, a credit towards dining, or a certificate to a local tasting room, while 100 percent of their donation goes directly to 1 of 3 local charity organizations: Redwood Empire Food BankRussian Riverkeeper, or Sonoma Land Trust. Visitors’ donations allow the organizations to maintain natural landscapes, hiking trails and waterways, and provide food to members of the community. 

Participating Kind Hotels include Farmhouse Inn, Timber Cove Resort, h2hotel, Harmon Guest House, Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa, Hotel E by Greystone Hotel, The Sandman Hotel, Vintners Inn Sonoma County, El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen, and Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country.

For some comparisons about what I addressed in the first paragraph, the Hawaii Tourist Association reported that Maui visitor spending decreased nearly 2% to $2.6 billion, while visitor arrivals grew 4% to more than 1.5 million. That’s the opposite of HTA’s goal. (https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/08/25/hawaii-news/as-impacts-mount-some-wonder-whether-managed-tourism-is-possible-on-maui/

That is also the opposite of Big Sur’s goal. We want the tourists who will stay here, patronize our local businesses, and thereby learn to love our local environment, culture, and the entire Big Sur Experience.