Visalia, County, Growing with Demand of Tourism and Conventions

With a refreshing of the Visalia Convention Center and upcoming remodeling of two major local hotels, coupled with the potential building of a new hotels in town, the Visalia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau could not be happier.

A non-profit agency, “we are tasked with bringing tourism and conventions to the city,” said Suzanne Blanco, tourism and marketing manager.

“If we have more hotel rooms, we can sell more hotel rooms,” she said. “And, new and fresh is always good for us.”

New and fresh will be the look of the Visalia Marriott, adjoining the convention center, which saw new ownership step in, in March and hopes to start remodeling before the end of the year, said Carrie Grover, hotel general manager.

The Marriott has submitted plans to the corporate office for approval, she said.

“The new look and feel for Marriott is earth tones,” she said.

Which is the same color-theme the convention center remodeling has taken for a connected look from one to the other, said Wally Roeben, convention center manager.

The long-standing Holiday Inn just off Highway 99 on Airport Drive, is being renamed as a Wyndham Hotel, although ownership remains under the Shaw Hotel Group. The 10-year agreement with Holiday Inn was up this year, and the Shaw Hotel Group decided it was time for a change, signing a 15-year-agreement with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

With the change comes renovations to that facility, to fit in with the Wyndham brand. The remodeling of the convention center and upcoming remodeling of two major hotels “was a major selling point,” Blanco said, in winning a bid for a new convention coming to town.

More hotel development is also in the planning phase.

In May, the Visalia Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit to Ayan

Hospitality, LLC, to build a 95-room hotel on 2.66 acres on the northwest corner of Plaza Dr. and Crowley St.

At their June 8 meeting, the commission also approved a conditional use permit for a 5-story, 104-room Holiday Inn Express on West Cypress Ave. just west of Akers St. Owners of the property, Grand Shangrila International, Inc., also owners of the Hampton Inn and Suites in Tulare. This is all good news to for the convention and visitor’s bureau, which currently sees an approximate 1,200-room inventory of bureau members for the city, Blanco said. Not all hotels are members of the bureau, and therefore those rooms are not included in the tally.

More rooms aids in bringing business into the city.

“That’s beneficial,” Blanco said. “We can bid on bigger conventions with more rooms.”Some of the major assets and selling points for Visalia, Blanco said, include the fact the convention center is so close to a vibrant downtown, “which is very walkable and friendly.”

Many cities’ convention center are located in a now-empty downtown with little to see or do.

“We have small town charm, with big city amenities,” she said.

The county as a whole is seeing demand and growth, said Eric Coyne, Tulare County tourism manager and film commissioner.

“Tourism is up,” in the unincorporated areas of the county, he said.

While, the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia is the largest Transit Occupancy Tax earner in the county, many other locations are up as well including motels in Three Rivers and various bed and breakfast locations throughout the county, Coyne said.

“Consumer confidence has grown a bit,” he said, with more people spending vacation dollars.

And, he said, there is an increase in potential with proposals for more possible hotel/motels in the area.


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