Local nonprofit Visit Morgan Hill got off to a rough start in carrying out its mission to promote the city as a tourist destination, but now that travel demands and capacities are starting to return to consistent levels the organization’s marketing campaign is in full swing.
Visit Morgan Hill was formed in late 2019, and helped the City of Morgan Hill and local organizations pay for events like the Amgen Tour of California and a Tourism Symposium at Cordevalle Resort in San Martin.
When the Covid-19 pandemic started, restrictions on travel and events (and even leisure activities like wine tasting) brought a halt to tourism, making Visit Morgan Hill’s work quite a bit more difficult.
Visit Morgan Hill Executive Director Krista Rupp had been leading the nonprofit for only a few weeks before shelter-in-place orders effectively closed all hospitality sector business in March 2020. But she said the organization didn’t suffer, and rather used the industry slow-down to complete their long-term strategic marketing plan and develop Visit Morgan Hill’s brand.
“We are really still a startup organization, so we needed to establish our brand identity,” Rupp said. “So (the pandemic) gave us some time to ramp up without having to meet visitor demands.”
With their strategic plan completed in October 2020, Visit Morgan Hill kicked up their digital marketing campaign with tightly produced videos and social media content promoting Morgan Hill’s restaurants, wineries, recreation amenities and other attractions.
On Monday, the nonprofit—through public relations firm Argentum Partners—posted a press release touting Morgan Hill as “the chillest destination in Northern California.” The post includes links to Spotify playlists—with titles like “Cruise & Chill 101” and “Wine Down & Dine”—curated specifically for a visit to Morgan Hill.
The release lists the many destinations in Morgan Hill that sound inviting for a relaxed weekend getaway: Santa Clara Valley wineries and tasting rooms, more than 100 restaurants, premier hiking and mountain biking trails, plenty of open space, golf courses and local farms that invite visitors for tours or fruit stand sales.
“With eased travel restrictions, there’s an increased demand to get out and explore, providing us the perfect opportunity to illuminate and promote the laid-back atmosphere in Morgan Hill,” Rupp said in the press release. “Unlike crowded tourist hotspots, Morgan Hill offers visitors a more relaxed pace to discover our many leisure amenities and opportunities, which is why we’ve highlighted the top reasons to visit Morgan Hill this summer.”
The chief goal of Visit Morgan Hill’s marketing campaign is to reach travelers in “overnight markets” in the greater Bay Area, Sacramento and northern California, Rupp said, and encourage them to spend the night in local hotels and spend their money at local businesses.
Morgan Hill can’t yet rely on the return of business travel, which used to consistently pack the city’s hotels but also disappeared as the pandemic arrived. That’s why Visit Morgan Hill is trying to reach those looking for more of a leisurely getaway, Rupp explained.
Visit Morgan Hill’s board of directors consists of strong representation by local hoteliers and the City of Morgan Hill, as well as other businesses that contribute to the tourism sector.
Gene Guglielmo, of Guglielmo Winery in east Morgan Hill, is one of Visit Morgan Hill’s board members. Guglielmo Winery is often featured in Morgan Hill promotional materials for its award-winning wines, scenic location, active tasting room and summertime events open to the public.
Guglielmo said tourism is a “win-win” for everyone involved—the businesses that are visited, the residents of Morgan Hill and those who are discovering local attractions for the first time.
The benefit to the community is clear, he said. When people from outside Morgan Hill spend money here, they contribute to the city revenues that pay for basic services for residents like public safety and street repairs.
“Our residents should be ambassadors for what a great community we have,” Guglielmo said. “A lot of them don’t even know about some of the jewels we have here. I see it as a double win-win situation.”
Visit Morgan Hill was created largely due to the city’s creation in 2019 of a Tourism Based Improvement District, which is financed by a hotel fee paid by hotel guests. The TBID is expected to raise about $400,000 annually, which is dedicated to efforts like Visit Morgan Hill’s marketing campaign to promote the area as a tourism destination.
Morgan Hill Assistant City Manager Edith Ramirez, also a Visit Morgan Hill board member, has long played a key role in developing the city’s tourism marketing efforts, which started in 2013. She said the current, focused campaign by Visit Morgan Hill “has been long in the making.”
“It has been exciting to get to where we see the fruits of our labor, and it could not come at a better time,” Ramirez said. “After the Covid-19 pandemic, having an engine like this in Morgan Hill actively working toward putting us on the map, getting visitors to come and spend money in Morgan Hill, is going to provide tremendous support for the city.”
For more information about Visit Morgan Hill, visit their website at visitmorganhill.org.