Imagine a town tousled by sea breezes, a town that drifts, well, sea breeze easy under the radar, a place where the days end with the sun slipping behind purpling islands, a place where play matters (greatly), and the happy din of art galleries, boutique shops, breweries, and restaurants really is happy.
If you live in Ventura, you already know you can save your imagination for something else.
Ventura is an almost implausible mix of the magical and the mundane. Pump your gas at certain gas stations and you can gaze out to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands as you squeegee your windshield. And maybe that’s the trick, the sleight of hand that sees some of us forget that we live in a place where folks vacation. It could be argued that our lives are a vacation, with work, chores, and errands are thrown in. It’s a nice feeling. Happy contentment that brings a smile at unexpected times. Bhutan coined the term gross national happiness, but Venturans don’t need it defined.
Visitors are drawn to this. Not just our town’s obvious largesse — surf, sun, kaleidoscopic culture, and simple pleasures like a good laugh over a cold beer — but also, less visible, this sense of contentment and even unshakeable confidence. Ventura is a very special place.
Regarding the matter of visitors, they are important to our town. Critical.
Why does tourism matter?
Well, there are scrolling reams of financial figures illustrating the benefits of tourism — 2.7 million visitors spent 289 million dollars in Ventura in 2017, and generated $8.4 million in local tax revenue — but honestly, though figures matter, you’ve probably forgotten these three already. What you haven’t forgotten is the warm smile of the local coffee shop owner who might not be smiling across the counter at you were it not for the visitors who also line up for their turn at a flaky croissant. Tourism creates roughly 2,600 jobs in Ventura. And the spillover effects of tourism seep into almost everything in our town; our agriculture, our fire, and police, our roads, our schools. It doesn’t take an MBA to know that these things matters. Safe to say that tourism hums quietly behind many scenes.
And, from a resident’s standpoint, the best thing about tourism can’t be notched as a figure. Tourism keeps us as we are. Visit Ventura, charged with promoting our town, targets the kind of visitor Ventura wants; visitors who care about Ventura, who appreciate the beauty of Ventura, and, here’s the important part, people who want to see Ventura stay the special place it is.
Promoting Ventura as a vacation destination might seem an easy job, like offering honey to Pooh, but the truth is it’s a competitive world. There are over 100 tourism offices in California alone, and we lucky Venturans know many of the beauties and charms they offer. Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Napa, Yosemite, Big Sur; they are all reaching out to the world. In simple speak, if Visit Ventura doesn’t toot our town’s horn, we’ll get drowned out. We want to be a whispered secret — that’s our charm — but not too soft a whisper.
On paper, Visit Ventura is a nonprofit funded by the city, tasked with promoting Ventura’s charms to the world beyond Ventura County. In real life, Visit Ventura is eight people (not including energetic volunteers) who live here and carry the town in their hearts. Which is where the things that matter reside.
Life is about moments — even a squeegee counts — and there are only so many. Ventura is a very special place, and all of us, residents and visitors, are lucky to have a moment here.