Even though the Sentinel publishes 55,000 copies of its Discover Lodi visitors guide each year, I still struggle to think of my home town as a tourist destination.
But players in Lodi's tourism industry filled the big banquet room at Wine & Roses for Tuesday's Tourism Luncheon. And the speakers threw out some very interesting numbers. Tourism is not only a big part of the local economy, it seems to be booming back from the Great Recession.
I put great stock in numbers — sales, expenses, readers, residents, etc. — and I love to tease out meaning by playing with numbers. So the 6th Annual Luncheon of the Lodi Conference and Visitors Bureau was a great excuse to take notes and run the calculator.
For instance, City Councilman Bob Johnson said Lodi hotels booked 140,000 nights during 2011, and they collected bills totaling $9 million. From that you can figure that a night in an average Lodi hotel room costs $64.29 — a bargain!
Jordan Ayers, the city's chief number cruncher, told me there is a 9 percent tax on Lodi hotel rooms. Johnson thinks most travelers pay more in other cities. Anyway, Ayers projects that about $300,000 of the occupancy tax will go to the the bureau next fiscal year.
Bureau President Nancy Beckman said she and her staff responded to 4,200 requests for visitor information and traffic on VisitLodi.com increased 30% last year. And they run a substantial advertising budget that gets Lodi exposure in magazines like Via, websites like SFGate.com and premium placement on Google searches.
Not only do these ads bring overnight visitors, they help fill tasting rooms and wine events like the Zinfest May 18-20. The local wine industry estimates there were 2 million "wine related" visitors in 2009, and Johnson thinks that number is way up the last two years.
So if you're from Lodi and someone teases you about being "stuck" here, tell 'em Lodi's the not new destination.