Debbie Croft: Dream big, visit California

Perhaps you’ve seen the Dream Big, Visit California television commercials and YouTube videos. Or the 24 videos in 24 hours, part of the Dream 365 Project. If so, you’re one of hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world who are discovering the limitless possibilities of the California experience.

At www.visitcalifornia.com/, viewers will find a collection of videos, short films, photos, tweets, and more, promoting the idea of making dreams come true in California. The website shows the many facets of the Golden State, whether beautiful, artistic, quirky, imaginative, adventurous, amazing or just plain weird.

Traci Ward is director of consumer marketing with Visit California.

“Our mission is to create desire for the California experience,” she said at a recent Yosemite Gateway Partners meeting. “The Visit California marketing plan is currently used in 13 countries, accounting for 87 percent of all international visitors to our state.”

The number of international visits is increasing, but so is the competition. Hawaii, New York and Florida are California’s largest competitors for overseas travelers.

Ward continued, “No other state offers water, sky, roads, mountain peaks, desert, beaches, culture ... and appeals to families with state and national parks, outdoor activities and adventures of every type.”

National and international visitors are seeing California in a whole new light. And that’s good for all of us. When they come here on vacation, they’re staying in our hotels, dining in our restaurants, spending their dollars at our attractions, museums, parks and shops, and taking photos of our breathtaking scenery.

Plus, they’re enjoying unique experiences unavailable anywhere else. Consider camping on the water in a floating tent, skateboarding on a floating ramp on Lake Tahoe, jet-packing over one of our gorgeous bays, hiking up waterfalls and mammoth granite cliffs and bicycling across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Sacramento-based company publishes travel guides with a wealth of information on California’s world-famous destinations as well as the Golden State’s hidden gems. The summer road trip guide, Drive California, is printed annually before the season starts. More than 1,000 destinations are included.

Guidebooks, maps, brochures and more are available at visitors centers and hotels across the state.

Promoting Yosemite/Mariposa County

The Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau has announced its promotion of National Travel and Tourism Week, held annually during the first full week in May. While driving through Mariposa, watch for signs thanking visitors for making the drive into our neck of the woods.

During these last several days leading up to Tourism Week, residents and visitors can nominate their “tourism hero.” Mariposa has a long list of friendly and hospitable business owners, employees, hotel or restaurant staff, and selfless community members.

The award ceremony will be 5 to 6 p.m. May 6 at the county courthouse lawn. Contact the Tourism Bureau office to make a nomination.

For more information about what Yosemite National Park and Mariposa County have to offer, visit www.yosemiteexperience.com/ or call (209) 742-4567.

According to the Travel Channel, one of this year’s best family adventures is in Yosemite. National Park Service staff members report that even with last year’s hardships (Rim fire and government shutdown), the park is open and as beautiful as ever.

Before taking a trip to the mountains, consider checking the Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide, sponsored by the Sierra Business Council. This online travel guide highlights local residents’ favorite places and events, those that sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place. More than 1,600 destinations are featured.

Brittany Todd is a communications specialist with the business council. According to her, travelers from 115 countries visited the website last month. In July 2013 (the peak time of year) the geotourism website drew 58,814 visits, and 5,700 California residents downloaded the mobile app. If you’re making travel decisions soon, or you have a suggestion, visit www.sierranevadageotourism.org/.

Yeah, if it’s different, it’s probably from California. Make this the year you plan to revisit California on your vacation. With a little help from the travel experts, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on what our state has to offer.