“State of the North County” shows tourism is a major economic factor

Posted at 6:52 PM, May 15, 2018

Tourism was a big focus of Tuesday’s "State of the North County" presentation in Atascadero.
"In 2017, one in seven jobs in SLO County were dependent on tourism," said Brooke Burnham, Vice President of Visit SLO CAL. 
Ancient Peaks tasting room in Santa Margarita sees about 20,000 visitors annually. The winery says that number grows 25 percent each year with visitors from all over the globe. 
"I think it will be a very good market in China so that’s why I’m here," said Jason Yang. 
He says the wine brought him to the Central Coast. The first time visitor traveled all the way from China. 
"I’m interested in some of the quality in some of the red wine," Yang said. 
He’s not alone. Linda Balot flew in from North Carolina. 
"North Carolina is not the mecca for wineries so this way we taste it and bring it back and we ship it back by the pallet," Balot said. 

"San Luis Obispo County tourism spending is at $1.75 billion in 2017," Burnham added. 
Burnham says that’s a 4.3 percent increase from 2016. 
Burnham presented numbers during Tuesday’s State of the North County that show guests spend an average of $200,000 an hour, or $56 a second.
But that’s not all. Over the past year, Visit SLO CAL has been doing helicopter shoots to showcase the county.
"We continue to market San Luis Obispo County to new markets and exposing people to the destination that haven’t heard of us before," Burnham added. 
Ancient Peaks says with its continued growth over the past 12 years, it’s transformed, with an events area, zip lining and a cafe. 
"The rising tide floats all ships and so if we, as a community, can get together and show that we are capable of having a world-class region, not only for wine quality but also hospitality, we’re all going to really succeed," said Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins, Ancient Peaks Vice President of Operations. 
More than 20,000 jobs on the Central Coast rely on the tourism industry, according to Visit SLO CAL. 

The tourism organization is working on a 20 to 30-year destination management strategy. As part of the process, visitors can participate in an online survey.