Yosemite Gateway Destinations

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Competitive Landscape: Yosemite Gateway 1

Mono County, Tuolumne County and Lee Vining all attract visitors who are interested in outdoor activities and beautiful views.

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

Mono County

  • Average annual visitors: over 1.5 million
  • Visitor demographics: Worldwide; visitor website can be viewed in 53 languages including English.
  • Differentiators/special attractions: Devils Postpile National Monument; Bodie State Historic Park, Ghost Town from the California Gold Rush; Mono Lake, one of the western hemisphere's oldest lakes.
  • Five hot springs: Travertine Hot Springs, Buckeye Hot Springs, Old Benton Hot Springs, Hilltop Hot Springs and Wild Willy's Hot Springs.
  • Three of California's highest mountain passes: Sonora Pass, Tioga Pass, and Monitor Pass.
  • Yosemite National Park east entrance at Tuolumne Meadows, where you can visit the Lembert Dome, Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge, the Pothole Dome, Cathedral Lakes, Tenaya Lake, and Olmsted Point.
  • Mono County also has 10 towns including Bridgeport, Lee Vining, and Mammoth Lakes.
  • Mono County has 24 rivers, creeks, and lakes for fishing, paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking.
  • What people like about it: Yelp reviewers love Bodie State Historic Park for its history, landscape and multiple buildings you can explore. Get opportunities for photos, and it is dog friendly.
  • Yelp reviewers state that the Devil's Postpile is unique and stunning.
  • Facebook fans commented that Convict Lake is a great place to watch the leaves turn in the fall and a great place to camp.
  • Facebook reviewers mention that the Eastern Sierras are a beautiful place to see nature, great hiking and fishing, and it is very quiet.
  • Digital marketing tactics: Mono County uses an e-newsletter and hashtags on social media posts. They also work with East River PR, a public relations firm.

Tuolumne County

  • Average annual visitors: In 2018 Kennedy Meadows reported 54,678 visitors, Columbia State Historic Park reported 273,540 visitors, Railtown 1897 State Park reported 29,670 visitors and Pinecrest Reservoir reported 29,328 visitors.
  • Stanislaus National Forest reported in 2017 they had just over 1 million visitors.
  • Visitor demographics: Top origins of international web traffic: United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France. Top three international visitor counties in Visitor Centers: United Kingdom, Germany, and France.
  • Differentiators/special attractions: Tuolumne County has 11 large waterfalls: Niagara Falls, Blue Canyon Falls, Preston Falls, Rancheria Falls, Wapama Falls, Lower Yosemite Fall, Upper Yosemite Fall, Vernal Fall, Tuolumne Falls & White Cascade. Some are easy to get to and others you will need to hike to see. There are also many small ones that appear when the snow melts in the spring.
  • You can pan for gold at gold mine from the 49er days, and take a course in gold mining at several locations.
  • At Railtown 1897 Historic State Park you can ride a steam train that has been featured in movies and TV shows.
  • You can ride in a stagecoach at Columbia State Park.
  • There are caves you can walk through and repel into at Black Chasm Cavern and Mercer Caverns.
  • Tuolumne County also hosts two casinos: Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown and the Black Oak Casino Resort in Tuolumne.
  • Tuolumne County has opportunities for outdoor recreation such as whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, golfing, boating and fishing,
  • What people like about: Facebook reviews comment that Tuolumne County is beautiful, scenic, historic and they can't wait to return.
  • Facebook fans comment over and over they "love it there" on several posts.
  • Digital marketing tactics: Visit California Digital Banner Ads and e-newsletter Sponsorship, Sunset Magazine Digital ad, Facebook advertising, digital vacation planner, digital ads on San Francisco planner, digital ads on MyYosemitePark.com and digital ads on MyMotherLode.com.

Lee Vining

  • Average annual visitors: Mono Lake in Lee Vining has 250,000 visitors a year.
  • Visitor demographics: n/a
  • Differentiators/special attractions: California's highest vehicle pass is Tioga Pass, at 9,945 ft elevation. It is also called Yosemite's Heavenly gate.
  • You may see Big Horn Sheep while you camp or fish in the alpine settings in Saddlebag, Ellery and Tioga Lake.
  • Lundy Lake offers boat rentals and great spring wild flower displays and beautiful colors in the fall.
  • Saddlebag Lake offers a five-mile loop scenic ferry boat ride.
  • Tioga Pass and Lee Vining Creek Canyon and Tioga Pass offer great hiking, spectacular fishing and wonderful photo opportunities.
  • The Mono Craters in the Mono Basin Scenic Area are between 600 to 40,000 years old, and some look like volcanoes that could erupt at any time.
  • What people like about: Trip Advisor reviewers enjoy Lundy Lake for beautiful wildflowers and birding.
  • The Los Angeles Times reviewed Lee Vining as "more than a pit stop" with "grand views, volcanic craters and, later, hands-on birding, geology and arborglyph". The article also noted it was handicap friendly and had great places for meals.
  • Trip Advisor reviewers love Ellery Lake Campground because it is small; each campsite is on a creek, stating it is the best campground.
  • Digital marketing tactics: n/a

Research Strategy:

We could not provide complete information on average annual visitor numbers and visitor demographics for Mono County or Tuolumne County

The research team commenced our search at the tourism site for each county to find their visitor information. We found lodging and restaurant information, along with places to go and events in the area. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any number for amount of visitors or their demographics on these pages.

We moved to the Mono County and Tuolumne County government websites to review county board reports and minutes of government meetings. Here we were able to find limited information for Mono County which is included in this brief. However, no exact number for Mono County was found. We also found a county report from Tuolumne County which talked about visitor spending, but did not have numbers of tourists available. We found some information on international visitors, which is also included in this brief. However, we were unable to provide complete information on average annual visitor numbers and visitor demographics for Mono County and Tuolumne County.

We then reviewed news sources such as NBS Southern California, ABC 10 and the Union Democrat for articles about Mono County and Tuolumne County. We were able to find information on events in the area, fishing reports, and accident reports. We were also able to locate an article about tourism in Tuolumne County that gave information on numbers of tourist in certain venues, which we included in this brief However, we were not able to find complete numbers and demographics for visitors to Mono County and Tuolumne County.

We were unable to find visitor information, visitor demographics, and digital advertising information for Lee Vining.
We began our search at the Mono County tourism site to find visitor information, where we found lodging and restaurant information along with places to go. We also reviewed the Lee Vining Chamber of Commerce site; unfortunately we were unable to find any number for amount of visitors or their demographics on these pages. We then viewed the Mono Lake Committee site where we found information on the number of visitors to this area of Lee Vining. However, no visitor demographics were found and no information on digital advertising for the town of Lee Vining.
We moved to the Mono County government website to review county board reports and minutes of government meetings. Here we were able to find limited information for Mono County which is included in this brief, but no specific information on the town of Lee Vining. We were unable to locate any information on average annual visitor numbers and visitor demographics or digital advertising for Lee Vining. We searched for a local government site for Lee Vining, but none was available.
We then reviewed news sources such as NBS Southern California, ABC 10 and the Union Democrat for articles about Lee Vining. We were able to find one article about vacationing in Lee Vining which we included in the brief. We also reviewed social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but Lee Vining does not appear to have social media accounts for the town.
Lee Vining is part of Mono County, and is advertised with Mono County, and it appears that this town does not have any published information about its own tourism or advertising in the public domain.

Part
02
of three
Part
02

Competitive Landscape: Yosemite Gateway 2

Merced, California boasts of their Arts and Culture attraction that is thriving in their proud community; Midpines-el Portal, California has Bear Creek’s upper reaches which include several scenic swimming holes; while Oakdale, California takes pride in offering self-guided complimentary tours of its cheesemaking facility.

Merced, California

Differentiators/special attractions:
  • Arts and Culture are thriving in this proud community.
  • From the galleries at its Multicultural Center to the live performances at Playhouse Merced, there is sure to be something for everyone.
  • The MERCO Cycling Classic brings world class riders from around the globe to Merced each March.
  • Experience aviation history as vintage planes descend on the Merced Airport each June during the Merced Antique Fly-In.
  • Bring the kids to the Big Valley Arts & Culture Festival.
  • Special “Project Stations” give families the opportunity to create works of art together.
  • The town has the world’s largest cheese factory and the best military air museum in the country.
  • Merced is home to the Hilmar Cheese Company—a large cheese factory with customers in over 50-countries around the world.
  • The Merced Fruit Barn brings in visitors and locals alike to experience the agriculturally rich side of the town.
  • Merced hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, all of which vary in theme and subject matter. Every month there is at least one event taking place.
  • Some of the festivals include the Merced County Fair in June, Shakespearefest in August, January’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and the town’s November Veterans Parade.
What people like about the destination:
  • Some of the things people like about Merced are the Merced Antique Mall, the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, Merced Theatre and Merced Fruit Barn. [3] [ref explanation]

Midpines-el Portal, California

Differentiators/special attractions:
  • Midpines makes an ideal base for outdoor recreation.
  • Much of the area is Sierra National Forest or BLM land, laced with hiking trails and forest service roads.
  • Bear Creek’s upper reaches include several scenic swimming holes.
  • The Merced River provides rafting (in the spring), swimming (from late spring until winter rains), fishing (pretty much all year round), wildlife, hiking, and camping.
  • Nearing El Portal, picnic areas and camp grounds can be found along both sides of the river (paved road access to the north bank is provided via Foresta Road, as you first enter El Portal).
What people like about the destination:

Oakdale, California

Differentiators/special attractions:
  • One of the special attractions in Oakdale is Oakdale Cheese & Specialties.
  • Visitors can meet the cheesemakers, view the cheesemaking process, and taste some of the handcrafted cheese, gourmet specialties and wine beneath the site’s willow trees.
  • Self-guided complimentary tours of the cheesemaking facility are offered at Oakdale Cheese & Specialties.
  • The Cowboy Museum in Oakdale, California features the smells, sounds and sights of the area’s western heritage.
  • The Woodward Reservoir is a regional park located just a few miles to the north on Highway 20 from Oakdale.
  • The park grounds encompass more than 3,700 acres of land, with approximately 2,900 acres of actual reservoir.
  • The Sierra Railroad Dinner Train is a one-of-a-kind attraction for anyone visiting Oakdale or the surrounding Modesto region.
  • Bloomingcamp Ranch Bake Shop offers apple pies, other fruit pies, turnovers, cookies, dumplings, bread, cakes and more at the bakery using the recipes originally created by Joy Bloomingcamp.
  • The Oakdale Museum and History Center is housed inside of a residence constructed back in the year 1869.
What people like about the destination:
  • People like to visit the Cowboy Museum, Oakdale Cheese & Specialties and Woodward Reservoir.

Research Strategy:

Due to limited data on the three towns, we have addressed "what people like about each destination" by taking recommendations from TripAdvisor which obtains data from public reviews.

The differentiators/special attractions was answered based on their commonality. Attractions found common in sources that list top 10 or top 5 attractions and those found in the official government websites were selected and presented.

What info is not available?

Average annual visitor numbers
Visitor demographics
Digital marketing tactics

Why the info is not available

The listed destinations are not very commercial and not much has been surveyed or studied on them. These are very small towns and the data on visitors, their demographics, tourism overall, marketing tactics, etc are not currently prioritized by the authorized agencies. These towns are still under development in many aspects.

Methodology:

In order to find the above mentioned missing information we attempted the following strategies:

We first checked the Merced, California, Midpines-el Portal, California and Oakdale, California official government websites and tourism websites, among others to find any relevant data. However, this strategy only helped in finding some of the attractions in the destinations along with other town data government practices, economy, infrastructure, etc. During the course of this search we discovered that these towns are very small and not much has been developed around them.
We then moved on to find out the number of visitors and their demographics on country analytical and statistical portals like datausa.io, city-data, suburbanstats, areaconnect, neighborhoodscout, among others. The objective was to find the statistical data on tourists annually which could be presented as the number of visitors and possibly demographics like gender and age. However, this proved futile as they only had data on population, town demographics, median age, etc.
In order to find out the digital marketing tactics we looked for campaigns and advertisements these destinations have run in order to attract tourism. The logic here was to find out how the campaign was run and how it was promoted. We hoped that through the promotion we could have derived the digital part for putting a banner on their website. We looked into regional news articles from the three destinations checking news portals like mercedsunstar, oakdaleleader, modbee, maripossagazette and goldrushcam, among others.

The closest we came was for Oakdale where we discovered that in 2012 the Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau (OTVB) partnered with NextMedia Group of San Jose for an aggressive marketing program to encourage Bay Area residents to visit Oakdale in the summer. This held information that could be presented for digital. However, the source is outdated and therefore not within our scope of research.

We even checked for campaign case studies on these three destinations with a hope to derive the digital tactic from the study details. Case studies from relevant portals like capdev, gainbuzz, mclernon and portalcomunicacio, among others were checked since these had some case studies on the three towns. However, none had any case studies on how the town launched a campaign to attract visitors and what were the digital tactics used.
We subsequently checked for posts, photos, tweets, etc these town pages have posted on their social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Here we were looking for small advertisements in the form of a post or a photo where the town used hashtags or banners to attract visitors. However, it turned out that none of these are active on Instagram. Their Facebook and Twitter pages have posts and photos related to the government and how the town is developing like road constructions, etc. There was no such posts or photo that could be used to present it as a digital tactic.
Finally, we checked advertising portals like adespresso, welovead, moat, among others where we searched for past or existing ads or campaigns run by government agencies that are responsible for advertising and promoting the towns. For example, in the case of Oakdale, the authorized agency or department is Oakland Tourism and Visitors Bureau. We did the same for the other two towns.

Our objective was to check for banners and ads that were displayed by these authorized agencies and use them as the digital tactic. However, there were no results on these websites. Therefore, this strategy was also futile.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Competitive Landscape: Yosemite Gateway 3

Rainbow pool, Yosemite Cellars, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum are a few special attractions in Groveland, while the Sierra Repertory Theatre, Indigeny Reserve, Black Oak Casino are some special attractions in Sonora.

GROVELAND, CALIFORNIA

AVERAGE ANNUAL VISITOR NUMBERS
  • The estimated number of visitors to Groveland and Lake County in 2017 was about 1.8 million.
VISITOR DEMOGRAPHICS
  • Information on the demographics of visitors to Groveland, California, is unavailable in the public domain.
SPECIAL ATTRACTIONS
  • Some special attractions in Groveland, California, include the Rainbow Pool, Yosemite Cellars, and Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum.
WHAT PEOPLE LIKE ABOUT IT
  • Visitors like the Rainbow Pool in Groveland. The sited has an average rating of 4.5 stars from 81 people on TripAdvisor. More than half (64%) of travelers have rated it as excellent.
  • Individuals also like to visit Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum. On TripAdvisor, the museum has an average rating of 4.5 stars from 51 reviews. A sizable portion of travelers (70%) have rate the museum as excellent.
DIGITAL MARKETING TACTICS

SONORA, CALIFORNIA

AVERAGE ANNUAL VISITOR NUMERS
  • The estimated number of visitors to Sonora and Tuolumne County in 2017 was about 3.4 million.
VISITOR DEMOGRAPHICS
  • Information on the visitor demographics of Sonora, California, is unavailable in the public domain.
SPECIAL ATTRACTIONS
  • The Sierra Repertory Theatre, Indigeny Reserve, Black Oak Casino are some of the special attractions in Sonora, California.
WHAT PEOPLE LIKE ABOUT IT
  • People like to visit the Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora. On TripAdvisor, the site has an average rating of 5 stars from 144 reviews. At least 91% travelers have rated it as excellent.
  • Another attraction that people in Sonora that entices visitors is the Indigeny Reserve. Currently, it enjoys an average rating of 5 stars from 76 reviews on TripAdvisor. Around 87% travelers have rated it as excellent.
DIGITAL MARKETING TACTICS
  • The city of Sonora runs digital marketing campaigns on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram for promotion of the city.
  • Its Facebook page is used to promote events held in the city.


FRESNO, CALIFORNIA

AVERAGE ANNUAL VISITOR NUMBERS
  • Information on the average number of visitors for Fresno, California, is unavailable.
VISITOR DEMOGRAPHICS
  • There does not appear to be sufficient information in the public domain on the visitor demographics for Fresno, California.
SPECIAL ATTRACTIONS
  • In Fresno, California, some special attractions within the area include the Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Shinzen Japanese Garden.
WHAT PEOPLE LIKE ABOUT IT
  • Visitors like to explore the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. On Trip Advisor, it has been awarded an average rating of 4.5 stars from around 728 reviews. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (68%) of travelers have rated the destination as excellent.
  • Something else that visitors like about Fresno is the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. This location has been given an average ration of 4.5 stars from 1,025 reviews on Trip Advisor. Up to 70% travelers have rated the Fresno Chaffee Zoo as excellent.
DIGITAL MARKETING TACTICS
  • Its Facebook page is utilized to promote events held in the city.
  • Fresno County is using Facebook for its digital marketing efforts. Currently, a sponsored post is running on Facebook encouraging people to "Visit Fesno County."

Research Strategy:

Our research began by searching for information on the cities' tourism sites. We also searched for data on their websites, annual reports, press releases, etc. We wanted to use the official websites to find any relevant data. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain information on the number of visitors or demographics. Also, we did not find details on the digital marketing tactics employed. At most, we found an overview of the cities, places to visit, restaurants, etc. We believed that our initial strategy would produce results as city websites often contain statistics on visitors, marketing, etc. During our research, we noted that the towns are small and do not have much developed around them.

Next, we reviewed media publications like NBS Southern California, ABC 10, the LA Times, etc., for articles discussing the cities. Through this strategy, we came across information on events in the area, an increase in tourism rates, etc. However, we were unable to find the demographics for visitors. We believed this strategy would work as media sites typically publish information about areas for tourists in their articles.

To find the digital marketing tactics, we searched for campaigns and advertisements initiated by these destinations to attract tourism. Our goal was to discover how campaigns were run and promoted (e.g., placing banners on websites). Through those promotions, we could have derived the digital part. We looked into regional news articles from the three destinations, checking news portals like the LA Times, among others, as regional news usually covers stories to promote the area. However, we did not find any relevant information.

We then explored for information on sites that publish information on the travel and tourism industry. We searched for travel publications on websites like Travel and Leisure, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, and Expedia, among others. We looked for articles, reviews, reports, etc., to attain details on visitors and the digital marketing efforts, however, this strategy was not fruitful as the information we found mostly addressed places to visits, top attractions, etc. We believed this strategy would yield valuable results as these particular websites concentrate on travel and tourism.

Afterward, we expanded the scope of our research and checked for information for the counties and California as a whole. We examined related websites to review county board reports, government tourism reports, etc. On its annual report, we found limited information for Tuolumne County. The annual report revealed some digital marketing tactics used by the county, which includes areas like Groveland and Sonora. Nevertheless, the was no information available on the number of visitors or demographics. The concept behind this strategy was to utilize the county or state level publications to find data on the visitors and marketing efforts of the area, and provide it as a proxy as the city level data is incorporated into the counties.

Finally, we searched through analytical and statistical portals such as Suburban Stats, Area Connect, Neighborhood Scout, City-Data, Data USA, among others, to obtain the number of visitors, and details on demographics of the specified areas or their counties or state. We intended to locate the statistical data on tourists annually, which could be presented as the number of visitors, and possibly demographics like gender and age. However, those sources only presented data on population, town demographics, median age, etc.

Due to the limited availability of data, we were unable to provide the visitor demographics for any of the areas, or the number of visitors for the destinations specifically. Additionally, we could not offer detailed information on their digital marketing tactics.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
From Part 03