Business / Economy

San Benito County Tourism begins drafting five-year marketing plan

Leaders in the Hollister Downtown Association, San Juan Bautista Committee and Community Foundation see potential for increased tourist spending in San Benito County.

On July 2, San Benito County Tourism signed a contract with Schipper Design to develop a five-year marketing plan to increase tourism in the region. SBC Tourism is a new group composed of members of the Hollister Downtown Association, San Juan Bautista Committee, and the Community Foundation for San Benito County.

In the first two phases of the project SBC Tourism and Schipper Design will write a summary for a marketing plan that will include developing metrics and negotiating pricing and placement for advertisements. They will also brainstorm other action items for the next three years.

The team expects the summary to be completed by November. A third phase addressing financing and execution is expected to begin in January.

Community Foundation CEO Gary Byrne noticed that although people from outside San Benito County drive through every day, they do not spend their money in the county efficiently.

“Tens of thousands drive through at the top of the county on Highway 101, and most don’t even realize they’ve been in the county,” Byrne said. “When a tourist comes in for the day, they fill their car with gas, they might have breakfast and dinner, then they come home, but they have not left their footprint on the county.”

SBC Tourism has reached out to local hotels and restaurants to participate in marketing efforts, as a way to ensure the marketing plan represents all stakeholders.

Byrne said that with the help of Schipper Design, creating the five-year marketing plan should also encourage donors to support SBC Tourism’s mission.

“When we ask for money for tourism, donors like to see a long-term plan of where the money is going to,” Byrne said. “We wanted Schipper to help us do a five-year plan and a five-year budget so we can go to the authorities and tell them, ‘This is how much is going to print, this is how much is going to social media, and this is how much is going to TV advertising.’”

Jill Pagaran, chairwoman of the San Juan Bautista Committee, is another founding member of SBC Tourism. About 2½ years ago, she participated in the rebranding of San Juan Bautista. Between redesigning the San Juan website and running 30-second commercials on ABC Channel 7, Pagaran said her team’s efforts helped increase the number of visitors to San Juan Bautista. She hopes to bring her experience to help all of San Benito County.

“I feel that San Juan’s volunteer committee for marketing and promotions has gone as far as it can,” Pagaran said. “Now, the San Juan Bautista Committee, the HDA and the Community Foundation have partnered to put together a marketing strategy we can enact as professionals, not just as volunteers.”

Though the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce is not part of SBC Tourism, the organization still plans to promote the region. The Hollister City Council voted June 3 to allot the Chamber and Visitors Bureau $52,000 per year for five years for financial assistance. Of that, $2,500 is allocated to Pinnacles Gateway Partners.

The Chamber plans to contribute some of that money to tourism efforts.

“We are happy to see other organizations stepping up to the plate and assisting us in promoting our beautiful county,” said Chamber board chair Robert Rodriguez II.

Both Pagaran and Byrne agreed that San Benito County has a lot to offer, but needs to better communicate its message to tourists.

The target audience for the group’s marketing plan is Bay Area residents.

“Lots of people in the busy Bay Area are looking for day trips,” Byrne said. “Come here and hike the Pinnacles, visit the Mission, drink wine, play golf, or take a drive down Highway 25 and experience beautiful rural America.”


Melissa Melton

Melissa Melton is a media intern at BenitoLink. She reports primarily on business and economic development, and also assists with marketing. She is a Business Administration major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, minoring in Integrated Marketing Communications, Statistics, and German.