Comstock's magazine 0818 - August 2018 - Page 40

n TOURISM n tourism O n a sunny Thursday in June, leaders in the Cap- — to help boost the already upward trend in tourism numbers ital Region’s business and tourism industries in the city and across California. gathered in a convention center ballroom for But artists and marketing executives are notoriously com- Visit Sacramento’s annual State of the Hospi- plex bedfellows. Aligning communication and expectations tality Industry Luncheon to, as the evite urged, between the two sides can be a challenge. It’s not always easy “COME FIND OUT WHAT’S NEXT.” to stay on message — and please a broad audience — without As the sold-out event got underway, Visit stifling creativity. Sacramento CEO Mike Testa outlined the Amid the excitement and experimentation, a key question agency’s vision. The city, he explained, was in the midst of pur- has emerged: How does one balance business needs with ar- suing a “different approach to visitation.” One underlying goal: tistic freedom? to put Sacramento’s “personality at the forefront, by making “The more authentic the voice, the more license you give our arts community a priority.” to the creative to produce the thing you really want to see ex- “We at Visit Sacramento are very deliberately pushing past ist, the better,” says Tre Borden, who has overseen a number of the status quo,” Testa said. “[Our] team is dedicated to ensur- public art projects and the corresponding collaborations be- ing that how we market Sacramento to the rest of the world is tween artists and the private or public entities funding them. “I progressive, authentic and impactful to the community that think that’s where Sacramento has the biggest struggle.” we represent and serve.” Spotlighting local artists and makers to promote a city’s authentic vibe is a playbook that has seen success in Austin, You didn’t have to watch Lady Bird to understand the impact Nashville and Portland. But this rebranding effort comes at an the film has had on Sacramento. Gerwig’s solo directorial especially opportune time for Sacramento. In the last year, the debut, a semi-autobiographical tale of a teen coming of age success of the Oscar-nominated Lady Bird, a coming-of-age (and coming to appreciate her hometown), struck a chord. It story set in the city and directed by Sacramento-native Greta racked up rave reviews, nabbed two Golden Globe awards and Gerwig, elevated its profile and exposed it to new audiences. five Oscar nominations, scoring big at the box office. The at- Not wanting to let that moment pass, artists and leaders tention put Sacramento on the map in an unprecedented way. alike are strategizing ways to take advantage of that Lady Bird It’s difficult to track how many visits or dollars a film like bump — doubling down on murals, movies and music festivals Lady Bird can actually drive. Any uptick in tourism directly inspired by the film is likely to be a drop in the bucket in the context of the Sacramento region's $3 billion tourism indus- try, especially compared to bigger draws like conventions and festivals. Last year’s Farm-to-Fork Festival, for example, at- tracted crowds of more than 60,000 visitors for a single day. Yet the consequent think pieces and Sacramento travel guides that appeared in prestigious national publications at a steady clip were a boon in the eyes of officials working to market the city. At its peak, Testa was doing three national or international Lady Bird interviews a week, compared to his typical two a month. The Food Network, The Guardian and The Washington Post all ran pieces on Sacramento travel. In May, the city was featured in The New York Times’ 36 hours travel series. “With its thriving cultural scene, striking archi- tecture and lush vegetation, this often overlooked California city — the photogenic backdrop of the movie ‘Lady Bird’ — has much to offer the weekend visitor,” the piece’s introduc- tion gushed. “The publicity we received from that movie isn’t something we could have afforded to buy,” Testa says. “It has created de- —Jessa Ciel, artist and filmmaker mand for Sacramento among people who may not have had us on their radar.” The Lady Bird Bump “We sometimes have competing interests as the creative and the business ... I think the best outcome is when you’re able to use that tension to create something more powerful than its parts.” 40 | August 2018