Tickets to Savor the Central Coast event are $50 off during May

Organizers of Sunset Savor the Central Coast are adding more adventure tours and VIP event and hotel packages for the Sept. 25-28 food, wine and lifestyle event in hopes of attracting more visitors from outside San Luis Obispo County and extending visitors’ stays.

And to help boost attendance for the two-day Main Event at Santa Margarita Ranch — which last year featured 69 Central Coast wineries, 27 restaurants, 27 artisanal food producers, five breweries and more — they’re selling weekend Main Event passes for $100 ($50 off) during May. Organizers are also adding more interactive exhibits and will likely draw exhibitors from throughout the state, according to Stacie Jacob, chief executive officer of Visit San Luis Obispo County, a tourism marketing group.

Savor was started five years ago by Visit SLO County in partnership with Sunset magazine. Designed to showcase the county and spur tourism, the county’s top economic driver, the event offers winemaker dinners as well as adventure tours — this year there will be 13 to 15 — and opportunities to attend wine, food and gardening seminars hosted by celebrity chefs and Sunset editors at the Main Event.

In 2013, Savor generated an economic impact of $4.54 million in San Luis Obispo County, up 27 percent from the year before, according to Productive Impact, the San Luis Obispo firm that prepared the analysis. Total unique visitors (people who bought one or more tickets to Savor events) were 7,287, up 6 percent from the previous year.

But tickets to the Main Event, considered Savor’s main draw, fell by 13 percent last year.

And though Savor organizers have long aimed to attract at least 60 percent outside visitors, for the last two years the split was about 65 percent local and 35 percent nonlocal.

The changes underway reflect organizers’ ongoing strategy to expand the event’s reach, especially in Southern and Northern California. That’s why two celebrity chefs were chosen this year from those markets, Jacob said.

Fabio Viviani, who will focus on Italian cooking during his seminars, owns Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood, Café Firenze in Moorpark and Siena Tavern in Chicago. Tanya Holland, who will focus on new soul cooking at her seminars, is executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland.

Two popular Savor events remain: a kickoff evening reception at Hearst Castle and an evening concert at Vina Robles Amphitheatre. A winemaker dinner series is being planned for Pismo Beach, and Savor’s hotel partners will be offering special packages, Jacob said.

The 5K and 10K runs held last year were dropped; the local market is saturated with similar runs, Jacob said.

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