Biz Buzz: Savor event will have a 2011 sequel

Savor the Central Coast, the food and wine event held a month ago by Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau, will return next year — same time, same place.

Although most of the events will remain the same, there will likely be a few changes. Among them: More seminars and expanded seating, possible adventure tours such as hiking or kayaking, and more shaded areas.

John Summer, executive director of the VCB, called the event a “tremendous success, economically as well as from a marketing point of view.’’

Shannon Thompson, vice president of marketing for Sunset, noted that it found the four-day event brought life to the magazine’s brand. “That’s why we’re excited about being there,’’ she said.

Both also praised the cooperative support of communities countywide.

Savor the Central Coast, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, kicked off at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers Market on Thursday evening and featured food and wine tours, winemaker dinners, a Sunday evening concert and fireworks at Avila Beach, plus The Main Event on Saturday and Sunday. That event included wine and food tastings, seminars and a demonstration garden at Santa Margarita Ranch.

It generated an economic impact of $1.65 million and attracted about 7,200 people, a preliminary study has found. That figure represents the direct impact of visitors such as money spent on gas, lodging and meals, as well as their indirect impact, according to Productive Impact of San Luis Obispo, which the VCB hired.

If ticket sales are included, the impact is $1.9 million, Summer said.

Other findings:

Sixty percent of the visitors were local.

Of the 7,200 in attendance, about 5,000 were members of the public; the rest included Sunset magazine staff, vendors, staff and media.

The estimated local hotel/motel bed tax generated from out-of-town visitors was $49,580.

The estimated sales tax generated was $45,000.

Organizers had hoped to attract 8,000 attendees — 5,000 from outside the county, Summer said, but only about 2,500 were noncounty residents. Sunday Main Event sales in particular fell short of expectations.

Sunset magazine had hoped to have 10 national sponsors, Thompson said. It wound up with three — Volvo, Safeway/Vons and Visa Signature.

Still, producing and promoting a first-year event is difficult, organizers said, adding that they are delighted with the results.

“Now we have an incredible event to take to market,’’ Thompson said, noting that Sunset hopes to attract five to seven national sponsors for 2011.

Locally, the VCB exceeded its Central Coast cash sponsorship goal, garnering $348,000 instead of $150,000, according to Steve Burns, co-owner of O’Donnell Lane of Sonoma County, which managed the event.

Sunset promoted the event primarily through its magazine in California. Looking ahead, it will target its readership throughout Sunset’s 13 Western states and advertise more in Southern California to attract more visitors, Thompson said.

— Sandra Duerr