The final sentence of SR 100, a resolution authored by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire, reads, “be it further resolved, that the Senate hereby declares 2018 as the year of the Redwoods.”
McGuire’s resolution honors the California redwood, the state tree, and also recognizes the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Save The Redwoods League.
“People want to argue but the numbers don’t lie,” said Tony Smithers, executive director of the Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “In terms of organic searches, people want to know about the redwoods more than anything else.”
Smithers has been the with visitors bureau for 19 years and during that tenure the focus has been on the majestic redwood trees that are the symbol not only of the region but of the state itself.
“Our goal is to get them [tourists] in the door with the redwoods and then show off everything else we have to offer,” Smithers said. “There have been many changes over the years and now there are questions about what do we do about cannabis, but in the end it is about the redwoods.”
The visitors bureau reports that total traveler spending generated a record $448 million in the county in 2017 which meant millions of dollars in sales tax and bed tax revenue for cities and the county.
Two travel magazines have helped secure Humboldt County’s designation as a top tourist travel destination. In February, Lonely Planet, a top seller of travel guides, listed the Redwood Coast as its No. 1 U.S. travel destination for 2018.
“In the first month following that announcement, the press coverage generated more than one billion impressions to potential travelers,” Smithers said. “In addition to that, the latest AAA magazine cover has on its cover Redwood National Park.”
The park will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year and it remains one of the biggest draws on the North Coast for tourists. Smithers said that while they saw a drop in international tourists in 2017, the average international tourist stays longer and spends more money.
But domestic tourism, particularly across California, remains the key demographic for the bureau.
“Something like two-thirds of our visitors come from Northern California,” Smithers said. “They are in our backyard and in the past 10 years, occupancy has grown by 15 percent, and that’s while room rates have gone up. Occupancy has grown and people are still coming.”
Smithers said that SR 100 “is kind of like a good housekeeping seal of approval. We work very closely with the Save the Redwoods League.”
According to the bureau, tourists spend the most money on food, about $150 million, followed by lodging at $107 million, while transportation and recreation combined accounted for $117 million and retail sales at $44 million. Smithers said there is still plenty of work to be done.
“The work never stops and we can never rest on our laurels,” Smithers said. “There is always someone who thinks they can do a better job with the funding. I’m proud of our work, but not arrogant.”
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.