Santa Paula Times

State tourism surging but attendance down at Museum

June 23, 2000
Santa Paula News
Although California is experiencing a surge in tourism that is expected to continue to grow, the California Oil Museum is finding from first-hand experience that new exhibits bring many more visitors: museum attendance has fallen in the last several weeks because of a lack of awareness that the rare motorcycles from the Otis Chandler collection are still being exhibited. Museum Executive Director Mike Nelson noted in a report that “media publicity about an exhibit extension is not as great as for an exhibit opening. . .the major new exhibits and associated media coverage continue to be the strongest visitor draw to the museum.”Visitors to the California Oil Museum had been topping 500 weekly and now the number has dropped by over half, averaging about 200 visitors a week.With the decline in visitors come a decline in donations: last year the museum initiated a donation program where a suggested donation of $2 per adult and $1 a child for regular visits started bringing in more revenue. For the first time ever donations to the museum had started to top $1,000 weekly, showing the rising interest in the exhibits.Visitors to the museum spill out to other Main Street businesses, so when attendance lags it is also felt by nearby merchants.
California has become cultural tourism happy; cultural tourism is generally thought of as those who travel shorter distances to experience an area’s history and culture.Tourism is now the third largest employer in the state with an estimated 685,000 jobs related to the industry. And, tourism is growing relatively fast. . .during 1986-96, total revenues from tourism grew 43 percent compared to 15 percent for the average industry. In 1998, tourist spending topped $64.8 billion.The future of tourism looks even brighter, with tourism and travel expected to double in size over the next decade and become an even stronger force in the state’s 21st century economy.