Out-of-town visitors boost 2011 Savor event

Sunset Savor the Central Coast, the four-day food and wine event held in the fall, generated an estimated economic impact of $2.93 million — about $500,000 or 22 percent more than the initial year — primarily because of more visitors from outside the county, officials said.

The upscale culinary event, hosted by the county Visitors and Conference Bureau and Sunset magazine, drew 8,872 people, or 20 percent more than 2010 — including 5,947 paying guests. The rest were vendors, sponsors, volunteers and media.

About half the guests traveled from outside the county, with 24 percent from the Los Angeles area, 5 percent from 22 other states, and many from the Central Valley and the South Bay, according to Stacie Jacob, executive director of the VCB.

By comparison, the initial year’s event drew 38 percent from outside the county. This year, organizers hope to attract 60 percent from outside the county and by the event’s seventh year, 70 percent, she said.

Jacob called the growth trends impressive. “Savor is the type of event that falls in line with our mission to create an experience and market the county as a choice destination leveraging our key assets of food, wine and a lifestyle the traveler seeks,’’ she said.

This year’s Savor is scheduled for Sept. 27-30.

Sunset Publishing President Barb Newton noted that the magazine is thrilled to “be returning to one of our favorite places in the West — California’s Central Coast.’’

Savor was created to showcase the county and increase tourism, as well as extend the reach of Sunset magazine and its editors. It’s patterned after Celebration Weekend, which the magazine has held the past 14 years in Menlo Park, where it is based.

The Main Event, held at Santa Margarita Ranch, offered wine and food tasting, seminars, a backyard farm and garden. Other events were scattered around the county.

Last year’s Savor cost $1.06 million to produce and fell $47,000 short of breaking even after taking into account ticket sales and sponsorships, Jacob said. The VCB board approved making up the difference from its $50,000 marketing contingency fund, she added. The 2010 event lost about $291,000.

Here’s a closer look at the economic impact analysis of last fall’s Savor, conducted by Productive Impact LLC. The firm based its analysis on attendee spending, ticket revenues, the costs to prepare and operate the event, as well as an online survey of attendees:

  • 66 percent of visitors averaged more than $100,000 in household income.
  • 62 percent of visitors were 45 to 64 years old, and 21 percent were 25 to 44 years old
  • 32 percent of visitors participated in an event besides the Main Event on the weekend at Santa Margarita Ranch.
  • An estimated $67,656 in local sales tax was generated.
  • An estimated $77,234 in bed tax was generated from hotel stays.
  • An estimated $999,084 was spent by visitors from outside the county.

Looking ahead, organizers expect this year’s Savor to again feature celebrity guest chefs, wine and garden seminars, tastings from more than 38 local chefs and 200 wineries, as well as winemaker dinners, backyard farm and gardens and adventure tours. But organizers are considering changes as well — such as adding some events to the Main Event on Sunday, more opportunities to shop and new backyard ideas, Jacob said. Two national sponsors have been lined up — Infiniti and Oroweat.