Back and Forward: Mike Testa on Sacramento’s Tourism Industry

Back Q&A Jul 24, 2017

Mike Testa, CEO of Visit Sacramento, offers his insight into what the city has to offer tourists. For more from Testa, check out “The Little Music Festival That Was” in our August issue. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll email you when it’s available online.

What’s the biggest change in your industry/area of focus in the past year?

From a consumer standpoint, travelers are looking to connect with destinations by experiencing the city as a local would. They ask what the favorite restaurants are, shop at boutiques instead of chain stores and want to sample local craft beers and wines. We’re fortunate here then, because Sacramento is surrounded by 1.5 million acres of farmland and has a food, restaurant, craft beer and wine scene that’s grown significantly in reputation. The locals eat well here and it serves us well to give visitors the same treatment.

Related: Farm-to-Fork Festival Poised to Grow

The biggest change in focus for us is in marketing a new city, simply based on the growth of the region. The Golden 1 Center has been the catalyst that we all hoped it would be in the sense that it’s drawn in further investment to Sacramento with DOCO, Ice Blocks, The Railyards, a possible MLS team and new stadium, renovations at the Community Center Theater and Convention Center, and more. In the past, we had limited amenities to market when trying to attract people to the city. But now the list is robust, diverse and much more appealing — whether we’re talking to potential clients at tradeshows, group tour operators or the national media.   

What do you foresee as the biggest change on the horizon in the year to come?

Without question, marketing and selling the expanded Convention Center — which we’ve started even before the shovels have hit the ground — will be the top priority for Visit Sacramento. There is tremendous opportunity to ensure the expansion’s success by executing our plan between construction and ribbon cutting. But, big picture, we are also going to take a more holistic approach to the market and grow other industries like sports, festivals and culinary travel. Our hotels are generally full mid-week but dip slightly on the weekends — that shows that there is an opportunity to target activities traditionally held on weekends. We’ll continue to leverage Sacramento as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital and champion the men and women who grow products that feed so many people in this country.

Related: Sacramento’s farm-to-fork director leaves for job at Nugget Markets

Doing these things will create economic impact that’s fueled by visitor spending to ultimately benefit those us who live here. We’re also focusing on growing our success by collaborating with the other destination marketing organizations [in] the region. So much of Visit Sacramento’s efforts happen outside Sacramento because our customers don’t live here but we see tremendous value in working with similar organizations to make sure we’re communicating consistent messages. While our audiences might be different, the goal of positioning Sacramento as an attractive city is a shared one and the collaboration will make us stronger.

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Visitor (not verified)July 24, 2017 - 1:33pm

I completely agree with the concepts Testa is focusing on for Sac. Toursists don't want to go to Old Sac and see chotchkie shops and a dirty river. As a tourist, I want to see the things that make a city unique, special, and exciting. What I love about going to places like Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis is the culture, landscape, restaurants, museums, bars, local flair, and nightlife. Its about time Sacramento gets recognition for those things; wineries, beer, restaurants, local bounty, good weather, and now the G1C and nightlife thats to follow. Bravo Testa! you just need to get the word out more nationally. The Sac tourist campaigne needs to be seen in publications (Food and Wine, Bon Appetite, Arctetectual Digest, Travel and Leisure, CNN Travel, and other websites). Believe me, most people don't even know where Sacramento is located, I often hear people ask (where is Sacramento, is that southern California?) Also, Testa needs to work with Mayor Steinberg to make the riverfront usable, clean, and inviting. Thanks

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