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Tourism is essentially the act of people traveling for business or pleasure, and it has been happening since the beginning of time.

Solvang certainly has been a destination for centuries, dating back to Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo visitors, and has been alluring to them all, especially Danish-Americans who founded Solvang in 1911 as a place to embrace their heritage, culture, music and cuisine.

Then, in 1947, idyllic Solvang was discovered by a journalist from the Saturday Evening Post, who described us as “Little Denmark” and a “spotless Danish village that blooms like a rose.”

This favorable coverage encouraged visitors to experience Solvang for themselves, and my job is make sure they continue to do so today. Nationwide and in California, tourism is one of America’s largest industries, and so it is in Solvang.

May is California Tourism Month and the theme is “Tourism Matters” — and it certainly does here in Solvang.

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Tracy Farhad is the executive director of the Solvang CVB, founded 30 years ago.

Consider the positive impact visitors create on Solvang’s hotels, restaurants, retailers, museums and countless other businesses. Based upon our most recent visitor surveys, Solvang welcomes more than 1.5 million travelers from around the world annually for day trips and overnight stays to experience our Danish heritage and unique attractions.

They spend an average $190 per day, and more than 14 percent comes from international visitors who tend to stay longer and spend even more money here. The tourism multiplier effect — for example, a visitor stays in a hotel that buys products and services and pays wages — trickles down into all segments of our local economy.

Why does Solvang tourism matter to you? More than 50 percent of the city’s general-fund revenue is derived from retail sales tax and hotel transient occupancy tax or bed tax with visitors paying 12 percent on top of their hotel room rate per night.

According to our studies, Solvang households would pay $1,450 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the local tourism industry. Tourism provides for the enhanced quality of life we enjoy by providing more outstanding dining, shopping and recreational opportunities than our 5,245 residents could possibly support on their own.

Frankly, tourism is the only industry where consumers arrive, spend and leave with limited environmental impact, yet with important economic benefits.

To welcome visitors and encourage them to stay overnight, especially mid-week and spend their hard-earned dollars here, the Solvang Visitor Information Center at 1639 Copenhagen Drive is operated by the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau and open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop by and meet our staff of friendly locals who make referrals to local businesses and organizations, distribute free information, maps, guides and that famous Solvang hospitality.

Tourism matters in Solvang!

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Tracy Farhad is executive director of the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, the nonprofit agency promoting the culture, cuisine, shopping, arts and attractions of “California’s Denmark.” For more information, call 805-688-6144, or visit www.SolvangUSA.com

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