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Travel Paso says as tourism rebounds, Paso Robles' next step is to become leading wine destination

Randol White - KCBX News

The California Mid-State Fair of Paso Robles came back this year with a 40 percent increase in attendance compared to last year. Travel Paso, a non-profit who promotes tourism in the city, says as COVID-19 restrictions lift, the fair’s success reflects a solid rebound in tourism dollars.

Travel Paso promotes the local tourism industry through marketing and branding. At the end of last month, the organization elected their new president of the board, Alex Villicana.

Villicana said as chairman, his biggest goal is to make Paso Robles the newest leading wine destination in California.

“I'm trying to get the tourists to come here to Paso Robles and stay,” Villicana said. Their biggest focus is reeling in visitors from places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose by promoting events and locations in Paso Robles. He said online marketing is their biggest push right now.

Alex Villicana gives KCBX a tour of his distillery, Re:Find
Benjamin Purper
Alex Villicana gives KCBX a tour of his distillery, Re:Find

“Travel Paso’s real goal is when somebody goes on the internet and searches 'wine destinations,' that Paso's the first thing that pops up,” Villicana said.

He said it’s been working so far. Recent data shows since March 2021, each month saw record-breaking revenues due in part to the organization’s targeted marketing campaigns.

Villicana said when he looks at the future of tourism in Paso Robles, he sees wine as the foundation — but over the years, he said, the city has grown to so much more.

“Whether it's the distilleries, the breweries, you know Sensorio, the golf courses... It's a whole tourism ecosystem that basically encompasses a lot of different pieces,” Villicana said.

Villicana said Paso Robles has come a long way in the last 30 years, but there’s still people that think of other regions in terms of wine destinations. He said that’s why it is important to continuously engage with consumers that haven’t been here yet.

Revenue from the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) is also an indicator of how much tourism has rebounded. TOT is a tax that directly charges guests for their stay at hotels, RV resorts, and vacation rentals. Since March 2021, the tax has accumulated nearly $9 million in revenue.

One upcoming event in Paso Robles is the Garagiste Festival. It’s in November, and will bring together home winemakers, also known as 'garagistes', to collaborate on the education, training, and best practices of at-home winemakers. That’s expected to bring even more tourism dollars to the city.

Gabriela Fernandez came to KCBX in May of 2022 as a general assignment reporter, and became news director in December of 2023. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an associate producer on the TahoeLand podcast. When she's not writing or editing news stories, she loves to travel, play tennis and take her 140-lbs dog, Atlas, on long walks by the coast.
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