The Travel Forecast

August 19, 2021

VSCC Gears Up for Fall Festival Series

With September just around the corner, VSCC is preparing its annual Fall Festival Series. This campaign leverages signature and locally-loved events which take place during the extended summer season in an effort to draw visitors to the region post-Labor Day. Fewer crowds, lower hotel rates, and some of the year’s best weather can be found throughout the fall. Since the autumn months are packed full of things to do for locals and visitors, this annual marketing campaign is designed to increase the visitors’ awareness of fall events and activities.

Signature events will be promoted through several key marketing avenues, including television, digital, media relations, and social media efforts. Television spots on Comcast in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and the Central Valley will coincide with aggressive online digital efforts throughout the fall. Meanwhile, the campaign will be promoted on social media, including Facebook and VSCC’s blog, and through a monthly visitor e-newsletter.

The Fall Festival Series is actively promoted through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and will have an expanded presence on www.letscruzevents.com. Co-promotion is encouraged through VSCC’s collaboration with over 100 local hotels and restaurants, attractions, and retailers countywide. For more information, contact VSCC’s Sales and Marketing Director Flavia Oliveira.   

California Wildfire Season Underway

With five major fires currently burning across the state, wildfires across Northern California specifically were extremely active over the weekend as dry thunderstorms and increased winds created lightning strikes. As of Monday, August 16, a total of 6,511 fires have been recorded, burning 1,072,225 acres. Forecasters expect more critical fire weather this week, with desiccating offshore winds expected to pick up Tuesday night through the weekend. Yesterday, Governor Newsom toured Big Basin Redwoods State Park, pointing out the link to climate change these fires bring. Here is a recap of statewide fires and what is being done locally as the anniversary of the CZU August Fire recently passed.

The River Complex Fire (Siskiyou County), Monument Fire (Trinity County), McFarland Fire (Trinity and Shasta Counties), Antelope Fire (Siskiyou County), and Dixie Fire (Butte, Plumas, Tehama, and Lassen Counties), Visit California’s Wildfire Task Committee met to review the current effected areas and the effect on tourism, and share results of phase two of a Wildfire Research Survey, with VSCC staff participating in the call. Locally, Santa Cruz County is prepared with readiness programs as state officials acknowledge that fire season is nearly a year-round occurrence in California.

The Firesafe Council of Santa Cruz County – part of a larger nationwide effort to reduce wildfire risk in communities which have wildland interfaces – has certified 13 neighborhoods that encompass between 10 and 370 homes. So far, 16 more neighborhoods are seeking certification. Firesafe was formed in September 2016 through collaboration between local fire safe councils, CAL FIRE, local government, water districts, non-profit organizations, industry, and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County.

A recent Visit California survey indicated that many factors related to how wildfires are reported by the media can affect visitation to an area. How a wildfire is named and “branded” by media and where it is located can affect perceptions by visitors when reports emerge in the press. Over 95 percent of those surveyed nationwide associate California with wildfires. It was also determined that travelers rely on the Visit California website, general news sources, and the local destination website when looking for information on wildfires.

Coronavirus Update: The Delta Variant in Santa Cruz County

SCC Health Services Agency - Logo

With increased concerns about the Delta Variant, local health officials are keeping a close eye on local cases and emphasizing the importance of vaccinations and wearing a mask. Although officials stopped short of ordering a mask mandate, helpful information was shared at a recent press conference.

What is known about the Delta Variant is that it is twice as transmissible as other COVID variants, however, the greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to contract and therefore transmit the virus.  Those who are vaccinated are 6 times less likely to become infected and ten times less likely to be hospitalized. Approximately 67 percent of the population in Santa Cruz County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but local health officials would like to see that number increase. Vaccines are free and widely available. Here is a roster of local vaccination sites.

Last summer, VSCC launched its Safety Pledge Campaign when it was safe to travel, which continues this year. This collaborative effort encourages locals and visitors to travel safely while staying in hotels and patronizing area shops and restaurants. This critical step was made in an effort toward reigniting the local economy, as the effects of COVID-19 placed local Santa Cruz County businesses under unprecedented economic hardship. 

Locally, the rise in COVID cases due to the Delta Variant is expected to peak at the end of August or early September and resolve by mid-October. As of Monday, August 16, there were 780 active known cases in Santa Cruz County, with an estimate of around 40 new cases per day. Additionally, most cases have been community-acquired, meaning county health is unsure of points of exposure and it’s easier to get the infection just from being out in public. The 25 – 34 age demographic seems to show the lowest vaccination rate locally – a demographic that is largely more socially active.

Local healthcare systems are strained due to staff burnout, vacations, or some medical personnel leaving the industry altogether. While California is not in crisis mode yet, 22 percent of ICU beds statewide are available. Santa Cruz County is in the red tier as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disease-transmission guidelines. Yet, local health officials believe the priority right now is vaccinations and preventative measures like wearing a mask and continuing to practice safe health protocols.

According to data compiled by the Los Angeles Times, though vaccine coverage varies by region, unvaccinated residents are, on the whole, a shrinking minority in California. To date, 63% of Californians have gotten at least one dose, and nearly 55% have been fully vaccinated.

Be Water Smart

Currently in a Stage 1 Water Shortage with Loch Lomond at just over 60 percent capacity, significant precipitation is needed this fall in order to avoid a Stage 2 Water Shortage within the next six months. To help manage water use, the City of Santa Cruz Water Department recommends that customers sign-up for WaterSmart, an online tool to help customers ensure they have their correct allocation, track their water use, set alerts for unusual usage, get personalized recommendations for water saving, and receive important notifications from the Water Department. Sign up for WaterSmart here!

Arrivals and Departures

Farewell to Frank Perry, curator at the Capitola Historical Museum. Deborah Osterberg, who has extensive experience with National Park Service parks and monuments and authored “Historic Tales of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – Big Trees Grove” has taken on the role of curator for the museum. Welcome Deborah! City of Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard has been appointed as Interim City Manager. Martín Bernal’s retirement will be celebrated publicly on August 26th at 2PM at the courtyard at City Hall in Downtown Santa Cruz, and you’re invited! 

Meetings Venue Photography Wanted

Has your property or meeting venue adapted in order to bring meetings and conferences back to Santa Cruz County? VSCC welcomes photos which show how your business has adapted to bring this critical revenue stream back to our region. Share your indoor or outdoor photos with VSCC to be featured on our meetings blog, in our meetings e-newsletter, or on social media!

Get Involved in Citizen Science!

Help is needed for The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History’s long-term, volunteer-driven CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project. CZU Lightning Complex Community Science Volunteers will collect biodiversity data for broad community use from areas impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex of August 2020 and monitor wildlife regeneration in the 86,509 acre burn zone. This program was developed by the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, in partnership with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History.

Did you know……

that you can help with restoration efforts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park? Now that the one-year anniversary of the start of the CZU August Lightning Fire has been passed, volunteers are needed for debris removal, trail repair and maintenance, fundraising, cleaning and restoring artifacts, and more.  To get involved, complete this online form!

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