Visitation is on the rise in Bishop, with current numbers set to eclipse a record set in 2006.
It’s a trend the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau hopes to maintain over the next few weeks, not just for Bishop but for the entire Eastern Sierra as two major events bring hundreds of travelers and potential media exposure to the area.
According to Chamber Executive Director Tawni Thomson, year to date, the Visitors Bureau has seen a 7 percent increase in walk-in visits over last year. “And last year was a good year,” Thomson told the Bishop City Council on Tuesday during her monthly update.
Just last week, she said, when the 45th Annual Mule Days Celebration was underway, more than 1,000 visitors stopped in to inquire about local attractions, businesses and activities.
The record for the highest number of walk-in visits was set in May of 2006 when 2,115 people stopped in to the Visitors Bureau. “We’re on track to beat that by 8 percent,” Thomson said.
In two weeks, the California High School Rodeo Association State Finals return to Bishop for the 10th consecutive year, bringing about 300 contestants and their family members from all over California. These visitors will be staying in local motels and campgrounds, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores. Having these visitors in town has its immediate economic benefits, Thomson said, but hosting an ever-changing lineup of youth and their families gives the Chamber a long-term advantage: being able to introduce the wonders of the Eastern Sierra to new members of young generations year after year.
And it’s been working. The Chamber is starting to see families and former competitors who are no longer involved in the rodeo circuit coming back to Bishop to fish, hike and camp.
The week after this year’s crop of rodeo contestants leaves town, the Chamber will be welcoming a group of individuals with the ability to spread word of the Eastern Sierra’s attractions on a global scale.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism won the competitive bid this year to host the annual chapter meeting of the Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter from June 17-22. Members include writers, photographers, editors, film lecturers, broadcast/video/film producers, bloggers, website contributors and owners, as well as creators of mobile apps and public relations representatives.
Seeing an opportunity to promote the area from a regional standpoint, Mammoth Lakes Tourism asked the Bishop Chamber if it wanted to participate in hosting activities or tours for meeting participants.
“We of course said, ‘Sure,’” Thomson said. “I have always believed that we should take a regional approach to tourism development, and Mammoth Lakes Tourism shares that view.”
If boosters can present a lot more of what the Eastern Sierra as a whole has to offer – “a bigger, more attractive package when talking about visiting the Eastern Sierra” – then visitors are “more likely to stay longer and come back more frequently,” Thomson said.
For its part, Mammoth Lakes Tourism has coordinated activities, excursions and tours for the SATW conference delegates in Mono County that include kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and Jeep touring, according to Thomson.
Then on Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21, the Bishop Chamber will be offering the following trips and tours organized by Joe Pollini:
& Scenery Tour
Hot Creek Hatchery, Convict Lake story and photo stop, Laws Historic Village, CARMA Ancient Bristlecone Pines
1. Owens Valley Time
CARMA, Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Keough’s Hot Springs soak
2. Biking Into Deep
Big Pine to Owens Valley Radio Observatory ePedal ride with Bishop MotoSports, OVRO Deep Space Tour, Keough’s Hot Springs soak
3. Owens Valley Historic Monuments Tour
Eastern Sierra Frontier Monuments, Laws Historic Village, Historic Cardinal Mine hike
4. ATV Adventure with Golden State Cycle
Meet in the Tungsten Hills, ATV riding in Tungsten Hills/Buttermilk area
According to Thomson, 26 of the conference’s 44 scheduled guests have signed up for the Bishop Chamber’s tours. Two additional writers will be hosted by the Chamber for full-day tours, dinner and overnight stays in Bishop; one before the conference and one after. Those tours, Thomson said, will include Manzanar, Eastern California Museum, Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery, Lone Pine Film History Museum and Whitney Portal.
The Bishop Chamber will have some expense, obviously, including the cost of shuttling the writers back and forth to Mammoth. But the publicity the area can get in exchange for four days of tours is priceless.
“You can’t put a dollar figure on it,” Thomson said. “We’re super happy to be working with Mammoth Lakes Tourism on this project.”
Thomson is speaking from experience, too. The Bishop Chamber hosted the Outdoor Writers of America Conference in 2007, she noted, and “we’re still getting stories that came out of that.”