Visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks come from all over, but many live in Southern California, a new study reveals.
Nearly 75% of those who answered a questionnaire lived in California and adjacent states, and 62% are from Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties.
The Sequoia Tourism Council, which has representatives from cities in Tulare County, is using the survey results to decide how to market the region, said Glenn Morris, chief executive of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce.
Tourists travel to see the giant sequoia trees, so the trick is to get them to stick around an extra day or two to experience agri-tourism, food, art or murals, for instance, Morris said.
With new information that many park visitors hail from Southern California, "the strategic question for us is, do we concentrate our message more on that area," he said.
Park Superintendent Woody Smeck said he knows that local officials want to build tourism.
"We are working in cooperation with our regional partners to promote parks as places for outdoor recreation, inspiration and discovery," Smeck said.
Sequoia and King Canyon national parks want to develop a tourism marketing plan in time for the centennial celebration of the National Park Service in 2016, he said. They would be among the few national parks to have one.
The survey, done in August 2012, also shows that 79% of the parks' visitors are from the United States, and 21% are international (France and Germany were the top two).
Fifty-three percent entered from Highway 198 into Sequoia, while 45% entered by Highway 180 into Kings. Some didn't answer the question.
One statistic that caught Morris' eye is that only 6% said they used Spanish-language versions of the park's information. With Aeromexico flying to Fresno, "maybe we should do a campaign to get some Spanish-speaking folks visiting, locally and internationally," he said.
The survey and an accompanying economic impact study were done last year by the University of Idaho for the National Park Service, and were shown by parks officials last month to community groups in Fresno and Tulare counties.
The parks' 1.7 million annual visitors spend millions of dollars: "Total visitor spending in 2012 in the parks and within 80 miles of the parks was $122.1 million," the economic study states.
Overnight visitors who paid for lodging outside the parks but stayed within 80 miles accounted for 62% of total spending.
The average group spent $303.
Groups who stayed in lodging in the parks spent an average of $724, and those staying in motels outside the park spent $449.
Local residents making day trips spent $48 per group; non-local groups, $87.
POPPY AWARD: In other news related to national parks, the "Majestic Mountain Loop" marketing campaign won a 2014 Poppy Award from Visit California for "Best Regional Collaborative Marketing Campaign."
Visit California is the business name of the California Tourism and Travel Commission, a nonprofit that markets the state as a travel destination.
The Majestic Mountain Loop starts in Visalia, goes through Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, Oakhurst and Yosemite National Park. It's a three-day trip.
The campaign is a joint effort of the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Delaware North Parks and Resorts.
Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee. His column runs Sunday. He can be reached at (559) 441-6104, email@example.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.