“Visit Anaheim” struggles to find a use for Sidhu’s $6.5 million “emergency” gift.


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The Anaheim CoVid Heist of 2020 is one of those multi-faceted, jewel-like outrages, whose audacity and absurdity one can admire from several different angles, as is reflected in the growing city-wide enthusiasm for recall of the Mayor and change on the Council:

  • $6.5 million out of our dwindling reserves that we really cannot afford, after last month’s exorbitant police raises and the upcoming bond payments on our Convention Center expansion that’ll also eat into our reserves; 
  • $6.5 million out of our reserves that is much more dearly needed by Anaheim’s families and small businesses during this time;
  • $6.5 million given for the benefit of businesses like Disney who sure don’t need the charity;
  • $6.5 million given for the benefit of generous campaign contributors like Disney, the Chamber and resort interests;
  • $6.5 million given to URGENTLY advertise businesses that probably won’t even be able to operate for a few more months at best;
  • $6.5 million given as an “emergency” so that the public wouldn’t have to be notified till the last minute; and
  • $6.5 million justified, obscenely, by the epically tragic coronavirus pandemic. [more below*]

Taken aback by predictable reactions of indignation by everyone from The Register to this blog, the kleptocracy has responded this week with butt-hurt howls including:

But THIS is what I really wanted to share with you today:  We have stumbled across this gem on LinkedIn, penned by Visit Anaheim’s “chief marketing director & executive vice president of public affairs” on March 13 – two weeks before the Heist – in which he ponders what the hell his “destination” (that’s how they categorize themselves rather than an “agency” or “bureau”) can do to justify its existence right now.  It’s instructive and darkly amusing to get a glimpse at these Visit Anaheim folks puzzling to themselves about how to keep relevant during the coming months of quarantine.  And I quote:

What Destinations Can Do Now

The author in question.

  • Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park have closed through the end of March.
  • Events at the Anaheim Convention Center have been deferred through the end of the month  for rescheduling.
  • Events at Honda Center through March 31st have been postponed.
  • Major League Baseball has decided to suspend spring training and delay the start of the 2020 regular season.

So what does a destination such as Visit Anaheim do moving forward?

Here are some of the things we are doing as a destination marketing organization:

Gather internal teams and start planning — strategically, what we will do as an organization coming out of this setback.

Be visible and accessible to community stakeholders who are clearly struggling. Show up for them on tough days and be a resource.

Stay aware of key issues including industry related news, budget commitments and external messaging.

Be transparent and inform audiences, including staff, customers, board of directors and partners the latest news. Deliver information in a timely manner.

Answer media calls, especially on rough days. If you want media to receive your calls and act on your pitches, then you have to be there for the tough days. No excuses.

Create a custom email list for regional DMO marketing and CEO leaders to exchange information and best practices. For Visit Anaheim, it means collaborating with industry colleagues in Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Buena Park, Dana Point, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

Devise an opt-in email list for all partners and key stakeholders in Anaheim and Garden Grove. The goal is to deliver positive daily news of what is happening in the destination and the industry for Partners.

Test a work from home program for the Visit Anaheim staff and move the entire team to a remote working platform for the next two weeks.

The travel and tourism industry will certainly recover from this. We have a role to play in that recovery, now and later.

(And all that for $6.5 million!)

You just heard the chief marketing director & executive vice president of public affairs at Visit Anaheim, trying to figure out what he and his colleagues can do during this crisis, to remain relevant.  Let me help him out.

The right answer:  Stay at home for a few months like the rest of us who are temporarily superfluous.  Get to know your family.  I’m sure you have savings that’ll last a few months.

The wrong answer:  Bleed $6.5 million from a hurting town’s reserves.

Vern out.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.