Instead of attracting visitors to Ventura’s coastline and rolling hills, the executive director of the Ventura Convention and Visitors Bureau will soon be luring travelers to the majestic city of Santa Fe, N.M.
Jim Luttjohann, Ventura’s convention bureau director since 2004 and a board member for 10 years prior, has accepted the director’s position with the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Under Luttjohann’s direction, the Ventura bureau founded the city’s film office and developed award-winning marketing programs for arts and cultural tourism. His rebranding efforts have helped Ventura billow into more of a tourist destination than ever before.
A search for a new director is underway, but it will likely be a few months before a replacement is named.
The VCReporter caught up with Luttjohann during his final days working for the bureau.
VCReporter: How did the Santa Fe job come about?
Santa Fe has been a place where we’ve had a second home for many years and loved for many years. Probably the only place I would want to do what I do as much as I like doing it here in Ventura. You do have to have a passion for the place you’re marketing.
From a tourism/marketing perspective, what have you seen that is encouraging about marketing our city, and what gets in the way?
Relative to even when I began in 2004, when we go out to market Ventura in a tradeshow environment or when we’re dealing with state office of tourism, back then we had to start with a geography lesson, and I’m happy to say that is far less the case now. I think a lot of our advertising and public relations efforts really took on that problem once we realized it was a problem, to the point that most of our ads have a little icon of California with a star on where we’re located with something like “Located only an hour north of Los Angeles” and so on. We continually addressed the problem and it’s working. The other thing that is half-full is, our web-based marketing is successful. From something as simple as what we’ve done to optimize our website and the content we’ve put on it, so search engines will bring us up to e-newsletters and lots of banner ad placements on tripadvisor.com, visitcalifornia.com, sunset.com for Sunset Magazine. We’ve seen unique users (to the website) go up 100,000 this year.
Ventura has a really strong local vibe, or mentality, as compared to Santa Barbara, which has more of an international destination approach to it’s marketing. Going forward, is there a plan to attract more international attention?
There is and I believe we’ve been chipping away at that. I was just cleaning out my drawer in preparation for my departure and I came across a whole stack of programs we’ve participated in through the state of California, where we had features on Ventura in Japan, Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and you flip over a page or two and there is Santa Barbara. So we’re placing ourselves in many of the same places. “International” has been on our to-do list since the beginning. Canada is a marketplace we’ve been targeting over the years for a lot of the winter snowbirds who come down from Western Canada. We’re doing our year-end summary on international visits to the visitors center, and Canada, for the first time ever, has become the number one international visitor to the visitors center. It’s been the United Kingdom or Germany the whole time I have been here.
Luttjohan’s last day will be July 20.