Cities marketing area to snowbirds

January 17, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Tourism officials here will team with Baja California and Imperial Valley leaders to throw out an even bigger welcome mat for winter visitors next winter.

This winter the number of snowbirds visiting the Valley and Mexicali has dropped.

Various reasons for the drop have been tossed around but the most commonly cited is the border crackdown following the Sept. 11 attacks.

El Centro Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Kennerson put the Valley snowbird drop at 10 percent. City of Mexicali Tourism Director Mario Rubio said the downturn is 3 percent there.

Both directors agreed something needs to be done to boost those numbers.

On Wednesday, the two directors and other local tourism officials put their heads together to figure out just what that something will be as they gathered at Mexicali's Universidad Autónoma de Baja California for a meeting put together by the California Center for Border and Regional Economic Studies.


The center is funded by San Diego State University and based at the university's Imperial Valley campus.

One idea the group came up with is a joint Mexicali/Imperial Valley welcome festival.

While El Centro has its annual pancake breakfast for snowbirds, there is no cross-border effort to mark the beginning and end of the snowbird season.

Another idea: increasing marketing efforts to publicize winter events.

Brawley Economic Development Commission Director Tim Kelley said a good number of snowbirds don't know about annual events such as Brawley's Cattle Call or Holtville's Carrot Festival.

Kelley said snowbirds need to be made comfortable and welcome before they will attend.

Kennerson asked Rubio about his department's marketing budget. Rubio said his department doesn't spend much in marketing. He said he has a budget of $300,000.

"While it may not seem like a lot of money to you, it would be a windfall for us," Kennerson said.

She said the majority of her budget is spent on staffing.

While the two work to find some more money for marketing, they said one thing they can do is cross-promote special events.

For instance, Mexicali's tourism information would be available at the El Centro chamber's Web site and El Centro's information available on Mexicali's Web site.

To boost tourism numbers on his side of the border specifically, Rubio said Mexicali police officers might start carrying tickets to explain Mexico's rules and regulations to English-speaking visitors. There was talk of increasing the participation in the Mexicali-to-San Felipe bike ride or starting a Mexicali-to-Algodones bike ride.

Kelley said Mexicali officials need to help make English-speaking visitors more comfortable in the metropolis.

He said often he will go to Algodones to buy something because finding a particular item in Mexicali is difficult for those not familiar with the area.

After the meeting, Kennerson stressed the importance of tourism dollars to the economies of both regions.

She pointed to numbers from the state Employment Development Department that show a potential growth of 10 to 25 percent in tourism-related jobs locally in the coming years.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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