Sam Ross was hired in 2009 as the Executive Director for Visit Carlsbad, the official destination marketing organization for Carlsbad, California. Mr. Ross is responsible for implementing Visit Carlsbad’s business and marketing plans and defines the marketing strategies for Carlsbad’s growing tourism industry. This includes maintaining partnerships with local hotels and attractions. Mr. Ross also serves as key spokesperson for Carlsbad’s tourism industry.
THE ROSS STORY —
I spent my teenage years growing up in Brussels, Belgium during the late 70s early 80s. I attended the International School of Brussels and played on the volleyball, basketball and baseball teams. One of the great things about attending an international high school was the travel we did to play other schools.
One weekend we might be in Paris or Frankfurt or London to play other international schools. So, I was afforded this great opportunity to travel to incredible destinations around Europe and I fell in love with travel.
I worked for several years with the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau which eventually led, in a very round-about way, to getting hired as the executive director of Visit Carlsbad in 2009. But the driving force to remain in destination marketing was my love for travel that I acquired growing up in Brussels.
You wake up in the morning what’s the driving passion?
Visit Carlsbad is a small destination marketing organization with only four full-time employees, so each day brings a new set of challenges and opportunities. One minute I’m working with my director of group sales on organizing a FAM, the next I’m working with my director of marketing and our PR agency on coordinating visiting travel writers. Being able to work with talented people in an ever-changing environment is with drives me each day.
Having been a former resident before assuming your role as Executive Director describe the identity of Carlsbad now versus say 25 years ago.
This is a great question because Carlsbad has grown up a lot in the last 25 years. LEGOLAND wasn’t around, the Park Hyatt Aviara — formally the Four Seasons — was an empty shell sitting on a hill in Aviara. Most of the land was being used for agricultural purposes and Carlsbad was known as a sleepy little surfing town that most people bypassed on their way to San Diego. It’s a different story today and you’ll just have to visit to see for yourself.
The competition among California locations for tourism is quite fierce. How do you plan to separate yourself from all the clutter that exists in the market place?
Isn’t this the $64,000 question. Our marketing budget is pretty small compared to our competitors, so we’ve had to come up with unique programs that sets us apart. One of those is a campaign we did in conjunction with our PR agency, Wagstaff Worldwide, and the Pantone Color Institute to identify the colors of travel and then the Colors of Carlsbad. Check out our website www.colorsofcarlsbad.com. No one had ever looked at marketing a destination using color but if you look at travel photos on Instagram or Facebook all you see is amazing and colorful travel photography. Needless to say, the campaign has been a great success.
What is the approximate split percentage wise annually between international and domestic visitors and where do those who do visit come from?
Because of our small budget we concentrate primarily on the domestic market and our drive markets. Most of our international travelers come from the UK, Germany, Australia, and Canada.
How do you assess and measure visitor satisfaction to the Carlsbad area?
We measure visitor satisfaction using surveys and polling through our social media channels.
You’re on the front line regarding promotion of the area. Curious to know what separates an excellent outreach effort versus one that’s simply mediocre?
I personally think all of our programs are excellent and generate incredible results for driving visitors to Carlsbad.
How important a role does golf tourism play for in the region in terms of visitors and dollars generated?
Carlsbad is a renowned golf destination and reaches a niche market, but in terms of dollars generated it only represents a small fraction of total revenue for the City of Carlsbad.
Carlsbad is home to the annual Kia Classic — what impact does the event have?
The impact of the Kia Classic — www.kiaclassic.com — is significant when you consider the amount of national and international broadcast coverage the event garners for Carlsbad. It provides a great platform for showing people around the world the beauty of Carlsbad and the amazing Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club — www.golfaviara.com.
Is the area looking to expand its golf profile beyond that event — at one time, as you likely know, the annual Tournament of Champions for the PGA Tour was played at La Costa.
I would love to have the PGA come back to Carlsbad, but that’s unlikely to happen because of the Farmer’s Open that takes place down the road at Torrey Pines in February each year. In the mean time we’ll continue to promote the Kia Classic as well as the great golf courses people can play when they visit Carlsbad. www.visitcarlsbad.com/best-golf-courses/.
What’s the biggest challenge – short and long term — facing the greater Carlsbad area regarding tourism?
Figuring ways to increase our funding will always be our biggest short- and long-term challenges facing Carlsbad tourism.
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