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Abeldt retiring as exec leader of Manteca Visitors Center
Linda Abeldt
Linda Abeldt spent 13 years sending people out of Manteca as the owner of a travel agency.

Now she’s spent almost 15 years trying to get people to come to Manteca as the head of the Convention & Visitors Bureau,

“It is the same job but the other direction,” Abeldt quipped.

Abeldt is stepping down July 1 as executive director of the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau that operates the Manteca Visitors Center at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. It is a job she’s held since the CVB first started in September of 1996.

“The CVB and this job really are about economic development,” Abeldt noted as the organization’s mission is to lure out-of-town-visitors to Manteca attractions in a bid to get them to spend money here.

The seeds for Manteca’s CVB was planted in the mid-1990s when then Manteca Chamber of Commerce President Larry Madoski was pushing for a 24-hour manned phone bank to answer questions any potential visitors may have about Manteca and its attractions.

Abdelt, herself a past chamber president, was part of the chamber board that visited CVBs in Modesto, Stockton and Pleasanton to determine if a phone bank was the right thing to do. They quickly learned that it wasn’t effective at all and the best way to promote visitors was to form a CVB.

Abeldt said the natural thing was to zero in on Manteca’s location that is equal distance to San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. All are just an hour away.

“It still is a major draw,” Abeldt said of Manteca’s location. “We pitch to people to stay in Manteca and see California.”

A number of foreign tourists - and Americans - do just that. They research traveling to California, come across the CVB website make inquiries and then often end up booking hotel rooms in Manteca to use as their base to explore Yosemite Valley, the Gold Country, Napa Valley  San Francisco, Old Sacramento, and other regional attractions.

She freely admits that the initial reaction of many to the formation of a Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau was “huh?”

“People often don’t realize what they have in their own backyard,” Abeldt said in reference to the Delta, nearby wineries, and even agricultural attractions.

The Manteca CVB zeroes in on the small to medium tourism trade or SMERF - Sports, Military, Education, Religion, and Fraternal.

For years now a number of groups with 20 to 300 members that are spread throughout Northern California have been using Manteca as an annual gathering spot ranging from corporations to churches.

Abeldt said the opening of Bass Pro Shops with its nearly 3 million annual visitors plus Big League Dreams that attracts more than 400,000 people a year gives the CVB a ready market to encourage people to do other things in Manteca.

“If the family entertainment zone and outlet malls materialize that will provide another reason for people to travel to Manteca and stay overnight or spend  a lot of time here spending money for food, lodging, eating, (and entertainment).”

Events such as major Manteca Futbol Club tournaments that attract soccer teams for two-day competitions from throughout Northern California can bring $345,00 a pop to Manteca from the pockets of visitors who are staying the night, eating, buying gas or even shopping at stores such as Kohl’s and Costco during long stretches of down time between games.

Abeldt sees the potential for the Highway 120 Bypass to be lined with concerns that are a regional draw.

The Manteca native is also a former president of the Manteca/Lathrop Boys & Girls Club. She also owned a baton and dance studio for 14 years prior to starting Manteca Travel.

She is currently presidents of the Manteca District Ambulance board and is part of the leadership for the Manteca Parks and Recreation Foundation.