Last week, I attended the Visit California Outlook Forum, hosted by Visit Sacramento. It was my first time in Sacramento's convention center since its recent remodel. It's gorgeous and was a fantastic setting for the event.
Outlook Forum is an annual event for the travel and tourism industry. Over 800 people from across California and beyond came together for 2+ days of learning and networking.
I picked up my badge on Monday evening and took advantage of the fact that almost no one was there to take photos. This hallway had four breakout rooms, color-coded and named for a local feature.
The pillows on the couches outside each room were coordinated to match that room. This was one of hundreds of little details that made Outlook Forum really special.
So why was no one there when I picked up my badge? Many of the attendees had opted in to go to a Sacramento Kings game. I chose to meet up with Jonna instead. We walked all along the Kay, then had dinner at Mayahuel.
Mayahuel is a farm-to-fork authentic Mexican restaurant. I ordered Bocaditos de Mexico (a 6-item sampler plate) so that I could try a variety of items. The items included Rajas de Chile Poblano, Requesón, Cochinita Pibil, Nopales, Dobladita de Chile Poblano, and Chicken Tinga. I loved them all and it was just the right amount of food. My favorite was the Requesón (similar to ricotta) on the bottom center.
My last stop for the evening was the Sterling Hotel, my home for the next few days. It ended up being a great choice. My room was clean, quiet, and comfortable. It's an easy walk from the convention center, and even at night I felt perfectly safe walking there by myself.
After a good night's sleep, I headed to the convention center bright and early on Tuesday morning.
The Newcomer's Welcome session was at 7:45 am. As it turns out, 26% of the 800+ attendees were first-timers like me. The staff from Visit California gave us the rundown on everything to expect during Outlook Forum.
Then it was time for breakfast. Oh my gosh - so many amazing choices. I had scrambled eggs, sweet potato hash, Canadian bacon, a biscuit with local berry jam, and an amazing parfait with yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. And that's only a small sampling of the choices! I'm going to be repeating this over and over, but we ate like kings during Outlook Forum. For the record, only the plate directly in front of me is mine. The other two belong to new friends. Shoutout to Craig and Meryl!
The opening keynote was "Beyond the Postcard: Reimagining California's Brand for a New Era" by Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California. She is a dynamic speaker and I was overwhelmed by the amount of information she shared. Perhaps most interesting is that California is overtaking Germany as the 4th largest economy in the world. Caroline also introduced California's latest campaign, Childhood Rules. We got to watch the debut of the commercial, which was fun. I don't normally see commercials for California, being that I live in California.
Our next session was entitled "Around the World." Visit California has 13 international offices, focusing on the following markets: Canada, Mexico, the UK and Ireland, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, the Middle East, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Australia. The head of each team reported on the their region's interest in California tourism. It was absolutely fascinating. I learned so much, but one fact stands out more than any other. During China's 3 years of lockdowns (with bans on travel, restaurants and theaters shut down, etc), its citizens accumulated more than the equivalent of $4 TRILLION in household accounts. Now that they are able to travel, they are eager to do so and are well-poised to spend big when they do.
I wasn't able to take pictures of lunch, which is too bad because it was fantastic. I went with the vegetarian option, which was an amazing ravioli. There were tons of sides available, plus almond cookies with an amazing caramel spread. It was so hard not to overeat.
We had lots of time during each meal for networking. I met a lot of neat people and added plenty of locations to my list of California destinations to visit. So much to see, so little time off from school for Trevor!
Our next session was 'Economic Outlook: Navigating the Uncertainty.' It was also very interesting. As a side note, you'll see that my photographs for each session are from a different vantage point. I got up and changed tables at every break in order to meet new people. It's really hard for an introvert but the whole point of attending an in-person event is to actually interact with said persons.
When this hour-long session ended, we had a buffet of snacks to enjoy during a networking half-hour. I don't know how anyone could have gotten hungry in the hour since lunch, but there were a lot of tempting options. Blue Diamond Almonds, a Sacramento favorite, featured heavily.
For our first breakout session, I chose "What, How, and Why: Consumer Insights from Top Editors." This panel discussion included the editors from three magazines: Parents, Travel + Leisure, and Food & Wine (affiliate links, because why not). It was great. I loved hearing the different perspectives, all of which relate to my blog niche(s).
After that, we were off to the Memorial Auditorium for the Opening Reception.
I was one of the first to arrive, so I was able to take some photos before 800 people crowded in. It's a beautiful facility.
There was a live band...
... an open bar, and a LOT of food options. There were stations set up all along the perimeter with food from fantastic local restaurants, plus there were waiters with passed hors d'oeuvres. I tried a few small things, but I was so full from the large breakfast and lunch.
They even had a station with root beer floats made with local River City Root Beer and Gunther's Ice Cream.
It was difficult to talk over the live music and I certainly didn't need any more food, so took a break from the event and popped over to the Kay for a walk.