By Tracy Farhad
Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau
Tourism — essentially the act of people traveling for business or pleasure — has been happening since the beginning of time.
Solvang certainly has been a destination for centuries, dating back to Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo visitors, especially the Danish-Americans who founded the community in 1911 as a place to embrace their heritage, culture, music and cuisine.
Then, in 1947, idyllic Solvang was “discovered” by a Saturday Evening Post journalist who described us as “Little Denmark” and a “spotless Danish village that blooms like a rose.” This favorable coverage encouraged visitors to come experience Solvang for themselves, and my job is make sure they continue to do so today.
Nationwide and in California, tourism is one of America’s largest industries, and so it is in Solvang. May was California Tourism Month and the theme was “Tourism Matters” — it certainly does here in Solvang.
Consider the positive impact that visitors create on Solvang’s hotels, restaurants, retailers, museums and countless other businesses.
Based upon our most recent visitor surveys, Solvang welcomes more than 1.5 million travelers from around the world annually for day trips and overnight stay to experience our Danish heritage and unique attractions. They spend an average of $190 per day, and more than 14 percent comes from international visitors who tend to stay longer and spend even more money here.
The tourism multiplier effect (for example, a visitor stays in a hotel that buys products and services and pays wages) trickles down into all segments of our local economy, even including my son’s orthodontist.
Why does Solvang tourism matter to you? More than 50 percent of the city’s general fund revenue is derived from retail sales tax and hotel transient occupancy tax (known as TOT or bed tax, with visitors paying 12 percent on top of their hotel room rate per night).
According to our studies at the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, Solvang households would pay $1,450 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the local tourism industry.
And tourism provides for the enhanced quality of life we enjoy by providing more outstanding dining, shopping and recreational opportunities than our 5,245 residents could possibly support on their own.
Frankly, tourism is the only industry in which consumers arrive, spend and leave — with limited environmental impact yet with important economic benefits.
To welcome visitors and encourage them to stay overnight, especially midweek, and spend their hard-earned dollars here, the Solvang Visitor Information Center at 1639 Copenhagen Drive is operated by the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Stop by and meet our staff of friendly locals who make referrals to local businesses and organizations, distribute free information, maps, guides and that famous Solvang hospitality.
Tourism matters matter in Solvang!
Tracy Farhad is executive director of the nonprofit Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, which promotes the culture, cuisine, shopping, arts and attractions of Solvang.