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Get ready for yo-yo tourist
Manteca Visitors Center focusing on filling hotel rooms
CVB BASSPRO1-10-26-08a
One strategy of the Visitors Center is to try and get return Bass Pro customers to combine trips with other Manteca attractions or events. - photo by HIME ROMERO

A couple from Kentucky staying in Manteca a few weeks back are Juliene Flanders’ kind of tourists.

The vacationers stopped by the Manteca Visitors Center. They had booked a hotel room in Manteca and intended to stay here while taking day trips to the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Yosemite.

“They decided to stay here because it is centrally located to what they wanted to see and it is also less expensive for rooms,” Flanders who serves as the executive director of the Manteca Visitors Center said.

The Kentuckians - as well as an Aussie couple staying with friends at Del Webb at Woodbridge while using Manteca as a base to explore Northern California - are exactly why the Manteca Visitors Center is now zeroing in on promoting Manteca as the place to stay to pursue a multi-faceted vacation ranging from the Delta and Bay Area to the Gold Country, Old Sacramento, the wine country, and Yosemite.

It is key to the goal of making sure the City of Manteca gets the most bang from the $77,000 a year in hotel room tax they invest in the Manteca Visitors’ Center. They will still work with Big League Dreams and other sports groups such as soccer and BMX that have facilities that can draw weekend visitors and fill hotel rooms. But given the fact some of the events are self-promoting and most Manteca hotels are filled on weekend, the goal is to pump up weekday occupancy and lure more visitors’ dollars for Manteca’s restaurants and other businesses Monday through Friday.

The Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau board is working with a Yosemite area tourism group to possibly establish the Manteca Visitors’ Center at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley as a visitors’ center for the high country as well.

It makes sense from four standpoints.

• Bass Pro Shops continues to lure upwards of 2 million visitors a year. The visitors’ center has developed a closer working relationship with Bass Pro and has had an information booth inside the store during specific special events. One recently resulted in putting Manteca area visitors’ information into the hands of 400 out-of-town folks and included 200 who wanted to get regular notifications of things to do in and around Manteca.

“We got people from Mt. Shasta all the way to Bakersfield that signed up for information on Manteca,” Flanders said. “The idea is to give them information so that their next trip to Bass Pro they may do it on the same weekend as the Pumpkin Fair or some other event so they can combine the two.”

• To get to Yosemite and the Gold Country almost every Bay Area resident passes through Manteca.

• Manteca is located on the seven-mile 120 Bypass that serves as a key connector for tourists traveling Highway 99 and Interstate 5 with a straight line shot to the Bay Area via the Altamont Pass.

• Manteca – as Bass Pro location decision makers well know – is at the heart of the nation’s third largest 100-mile radius consumer market with 17 million people. It is topped only by Los Angeles and Long Island in New York.

CVB focusing in on tourists, less on events

The CVB board’s decision to focus on their main mission of promoting tourism comes after months of examining numerous events they stage from the street fair to the farmers market.

They will retain some events that fit into their mission - the street fair for example - but they will look for other organizations to collaborate with or possibly takeover events such as the Women’s Connection.

The CVB dropped the Manteca Senior Games after two years. The event – while a strong draw and fairly successful – takes a solid year of planning. It is time the CVB believes would be better spent focused on helping other groups draw participants to events from outside of Manteca as well as individual tourists.

A side benefit of the move – according to Flanders – is to take some pressure off the chase for the non-profit dollars via fundraisers that many groups in Manteca are struggling to secure in the down economy.

The CVB is also reorganizing. The departure of the events director to assume a new job and a reduction in funding hit at the same time. Suzanne Clements – who has worked part-time with membership-related activities – will have additional hours to work on marketing. Yvonne Torres continues as the administrative assistant.

The CVB is reformatting its visitors information to shift toward a greater emphasis on things you can do using Manteca as a base.

The strategy also hopes to build on the growth of “daycations.”

The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The CVB’s site had 111,148 hits during the past year.