EDC unveils ‘One-Minute Tourist’ videos

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

EDC unveils ‘One-Minute Tourist’ videosRidgecrest’s burgeoning tourism industry just got another boost with the release of the IWV Economic Development Corporation’s “One-Minute Tourist” series highlighting nearby destinations for visitors to explore.

According to the latest Runyon Report — an analysis of leisure travel within California — the number of visitors in the state rose upwards of 3 percent in the last year. The amount of spending by those travelers, as well as jobs related to travel and tourism, were up in similar increments.

While those numbers dip in 2016 for greater Kern County, Dan Spurgeon, general manager of SpringHill Suites and member of the EDC, said that Indian Wells Valley experienced a significant increase.

He speculated that many visitors are related to Navy business, film projects or construction, but steady efforts to increase leisure traffic have paid off as well.

“Hotel travelers love to see attractions rather than read about them,” he said, adding that the latest video series paints Ridgecrest as a convenient hub for desert adventures. “As a YouTuber myself, I think these videos are great.”

And, he said, the new EDC videos will augment these ongoing endeavors in two ways.

For visitors who are already here, they might see that a side trip to the Whitney Portals, Trona Pinnacles or Randsburg is reason enough for them to extend their stay in Ridgecrest.

For people in the planning phases of a trip, they might choose to base their vacations out of Ridgecrest, or at least plan to spend a night or two here to give them a chance to take in the local sights.

“A lot of our guests have decided to extend their trips because they keep finding other things to do,” said Spurgeon.

“And even though it’s very hard to separate leisure travel from business travel, we know that about $14 million was spent in the Indian Wells Valley.” That’s just the revenue generated by hotels.

That means another $1.4 million went into city coffers from transient occupancy tax. Industry multipliers indicate that travelers spent another $28 million on food, fuel, souvenirs and more during their stays.

The video series, funded by a grant through the Kern County Board of Trade, is just one push in an extensive effort by the IWVEDC to strengthen the local economy.

In order to help attract a qualified workforce, the EDC produced “A Ridgecrest House Warming” that highlights opportunities for young people moving to the community. Another video has been used by Sierra Sands Unified School District to help recruit teachers to the area.

“I think these videos are a great first step, and we plan to continue finding ways to attract people into the valley,” said IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil.

“The videos show people what’s available, and we could build on this by putting together travel packets that incorporate these locations.”

He also agreed that tourism is a perfect complement to defense-related travel. “We can balance the work-related travel by bolstering the number of people who come here on the weekends — bringing in visitors to shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants.”

Although IWVEDC has been working for years to promote the economic health of our area, those efforts have been ramped up since O’Neil stepped into his current role earlier this year.

The group has also been attracting athletic tournaments and travel through the sports commission.

The proposed aquatics center will help draw that traffic, but O’Neil pointed out that by making improvements to quality of life in the community, efforts to recruit and retain employees and new industry will be enhanced across the board.

“Ray Hocker has done a great job putting these videos together,” said O’Neil. “We’ll be working on finding the right ways to circulate these videos so they have maximum impact.”

Pictured: The episode featuring Fossil Falls in the “One-Minute Tourist” video shows a family trekking through the landmark’s signature rock formations. -- Video still courtesy of Ray Hocker

Story First Published: 2017-07-28