Visit Oakland’s Annual Tourism Breakfast at The Paramount on Wednesday morning, though it started at the butt-crack of dawn, but it was an empowering and informative event.
At the door, I collected the contact information for Lindsay Wright at Visit Oakland and proceeded inside. I walked in to a breakfast spread, grabbed coffee and found a spot at a standing table off to the side. I was the first media person to arrive, aside from Visit Oakland’s own photo guy, followed by two of my co-workers, Ravneet and Ash, to whom I asked, “Neurotic much?”
The first person I met was a woman from Dealsnapt. The woman in the blue dress and the red heels, smiling and welcoming us, was Kim Bardakian of Visit Oakland. After mingling, we were herded into the Auditorium and took our seats. Before sitting, I stood in line to talk to the Mayor and she was excited and supportive of Wear Your Voice.
On the stage were three women. Alison Best, Natalie Alvanez and Kim Bardakian of Visit Oakland. I was reminded of the three women who started Impact Hub. Then it dawned on me: Oakland is the place to be a woman in business.
There are so many examples of women succeeding, women growing, women networking, women living their dreams, providing for their families, standing in front of auditoriums full of people and making big decisions.
I sat there taking it all in, giddy off of possibilities. And I figured I’d share what these women shared, so other women in business, or considering starting, growing or bringing their business to Oakland, can benefit from what I so diligently soaked up in my sufficiently caffeinated state before 10 AM on Wednesday.
THE OAKLAND MARKET:
First of all, Oakland is approachable. I talked to people. People talked to me. They introduced me to other people. It was like a party, where everyone invited knew that the other people invited were only a degree of separation apart in any direction, were therefore safe to converse with, and everyone was sharing ideas and connections.
According to the NY Times, Oakland is the #5 destination in the world to visit.
This means Oakland is not just a national destination, but an international one as well. It is a cheaper, more diverse option to start from and stay, while still being accessible to San Francisco across the bay.
This means Oakland is becoming a tourist destination.
Which means there are jobs being created in the tourism industry.
This also means that investors are looking at Oakland.
Oakland has 4000 hotel rooms and it should have more than double that in order to compete with cities its size.
In contrast, most comparable cities have 4 to 10 thousand square feet of convention space and Oakland has 90,000.
So there is HUGE potential here.
How is Oakland being advertised?
As diverse- in languages spoken, landscapes, cultures, and lifestyles- as a hidden jewel, as a scrappy, innovative, and creative destination that is up and coming. We are a bunch of funky, original people and we are claiming our own stories and experiences.
Visit Oakland is marketing Oakland with the tagline “Discover the side of Oakland You Don’t Know.”
Their ad campaign has 4 legs:
Wet & Wild, which includes outdoor activities such as paddle boarding on the estuary and hiking in the redwoods of Joaquin Miller Park.
Art & Soul, which encompasses the cultural offerings of Oakland like concerts, art exhibits, movies and shows.
Linen & Napkins covers dinning from food trucks to fancy dine-in establishments.
Movers & Shakers is aimed at those visiting on business, looking for opportunities in Oakland.
Visit Oakland is a nonprofit organization that partners with local businesses, referring tourists to local people in order to make their experience authentic. Visit Oakland is a great resource to know about if you are an entrepreneur. Especially, as Alison Best mentioned, if your venture involves creating hotels!