Conejo Valley cities join forces to capture tourism dollars

By Sophia Fischer

Residents of the Conejo Valley know firsthand what the area has to offer. Now others will get the message, too.

A joint tourism effort by the cities of Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks has begun, and the idea is to attract visitors to the area to stay in local hotels, dine in local restaurants and rent cars from area businesses. "People come to Ventura County to take advantage of the beautiful beaches in Ventura and Oxnard, but many have other business in our area," said Gary Wartik, city of Thousand Oaks economic development manager.

The cities of Oxnard and Ventura have their own tourism bureaus, an indication of how important the tourism industry is for their economic development.

The importance of tourism dollars was underscored by Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña at a regional economic outlook forum last month. During her talk about the state of the city’s economy, Bill-de la Peña touched on the importance of seeking income elsewhere as developer fees dwindle.

"We’re looking into harnessing the potential for enhanced tourism in the Conejo Valley," Bill-de la Peña said.

Wartik pointed out that the Conejo has many features attractive to visitors, including less expensive hotels than those near the beach, theater events at the Civic Arts Plaza most Fridays and Saturdays, and natural beauty that can be enjoyed through an extensive park system with scenic hiking trails.

In the next few years five new hotels will open in the Conejo Valley, according to Wartik, providing additional tourism opportunities. The area will then have a variety of accommodations for all ages and at all price levels.

Representatives from each of the cities already have held several exploratory meetings.

"The idea has some merit and some promise, but how it relates to us hasn’t been fully explored," said Ray Taylor, Westlake Village city clerk. "Once further information is gathered, we’ll take it to our economic development committee and then to the city council."

But promoting tourism is a challenging and expensive concept. Putting out travel brochures advertising the area’s attributes must be done on a consistent basis and can be costly, Wartik said.

A countywide tourism collaboration from 2001 to 2003 experienced some problems due to the diversity of the cities in the county, Wartik added.

"There are a variety of interests that don’t always converge as a whole. We have to work harder to advertise the fact that those are all good cities to visit as a tourist," Wartik said. "We have to do some research on how to capture that market to benefit our community."

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