SANTA MARIA, CA— Travel agents, tour operators and journalists from near and far have had the chance to see Santa Maria Valley’s starring attractions this summer thanks to efforts by the Santa Maria Valley Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) and its collaboration with local tourism partners and regional destination marketing organizations.

“We really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with local businesses and regional tourism agencies,” said Gina Keough, director of the Santa Maria Valley VCB. “The idea is to open the eyes of travel agents, tour operators and journalists so that they can spread the word about our region, its distinctive attributes and the wonderful people who call this place home.”

One group consisted of eight travel agents from various tour operator companies. Visit California, the state’s official office of tourism, spearheaded the familiarization tour with partners from the Central Coast Tourism Council in order to promote Norwegian Airline’s increased number of flights from London to Los Angeles. The idea was to introduce the travel agents to attractions within reach of Los Angeles. The travel agents were treated to Santa Maria style barbecue at Shaw’s Steakhouse paired with local Pinot Noir from Rancho Sisquoc Winery and Cambria Estate Winery. Other experiences included salsa lessons at the Historic Santa Maria Inn; a tour of The Dunes Center; birding at Oso Flaco Lake; and lodging at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Santa Maria.

Another group consisted of 12 journalists who are members of the LA Wine Writers organization. Their visit included tours and wine tasting at Riverbench Vineyard, Nagy Wines and Byron Wines. They also enjoyed lodging at the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria; a painting class at Wine & Design in Orcutt; as well as a meal at the Far Western Tavern; dining at Niya, with a sake tasting; and a meal at Shaw’s Steakhouse paired with Pinot Noir wines from Santa Maria Valley.

The senior editor and publisher from Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional magazine and Southern California Food & Beverage Professional magazine also visited. He enjoyed lodging at the Historic Santa Maria Inn and tours and tastings at many of the region’s wineries and breweries.

“These tours wouldn’t have been possible without the community partners who were willing to collaborate with us in hosting these groups,” Keough said. “Much appreciation goes out to them for so generously taking part. The exposure stands to benefit us all.”

Serving the greater Santa Maria Valley in the heart of California’s Central Coast, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau is a nonprofit association that facilitates local tourism and provides information on the region’s many attractions and visitor services. Famed for its fine wines, natural wonders, agricultural heritage and flavorful barbecue, the Santa Maria Valley offers a broad range of cultural, sporting and historical experiences. For details on Santa Maria Valley lodging, wine tasting, travel deals and e-newsletter alerts, visit www.santamariavisitor.com or call (800) 331-3779.