Editor’s note: In this blog series, District Marketing Mojo, Verdin President and CEO Mary Verdin interviews a leader in the world of marketing and communications for special districts and business improvement districts each month. Check back here regularly for new interviews.
The Santa Ynez Valley – Where Travel, Wine & Community Thrive
Welcome to the captivating and hidden gem of California’s wine country – the Santa Ynez Valley. As the president/CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley (VisitSYV), Shelby Sim has been leading this extraordinary organization for nine years, working tirelessly to bring together six distinct communities under one banner, all for the purpose of promoting great visitor experiences and extending overnight stays.
Shelby Sim’s journey into tourism and hospitality began in Santa Barbara, where he grew up. After serving in the U.S. Navy for seven years and traveling the world, he found his passion for community and hospitality while working with the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and Bacara Resort and Spa. His love for the region’s wine country led him to escorting guests on wine tours throughout Santa Barbara wine country.
In August 2014, Shelby embraced the role of executive director for Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, showcasing his dedication to promoting and enhancing the region’s tourism offerings. His commitment and expertise earned him a promotion to president and CEO in January 2018. Shelby’s involvement in various chamber boards of directors across the Valley underscores his commitment to fostering strong community ties and collaboration.
Married and a proud parent to three children and three grandchildren, Shelby’s personal and professional life revolve around his passion for tourism, hospitality and creating unforgettable experiences for visitors to the Santa Ynez Valley.
Uniting Communities for a Greater Purpose
Visit the Santa Ynez Valley has been instrumental in fostering relationships within the valley, the county, the state and beyond. Shelby navigates the multi-layered world of different stakeholders — from elected officials and community organizations to hotel owners and managers — to oversee and actively participate in marketing strategies that attract visitors from far and wide to this hidden gem. He proudly serves as an ambassador for the entire region, representing it throughout the country.
From the perspective of an average community member, Visit the Santa Ynez Valley’s role is simple but essential: promoting the region responsibly while filling the hotels and putting heads in beds. Their efforts to attract visitors have a direct and positive impact on the local economy and community.
Grant Program: A Beacon of Support
Not content with merely promoting tourism, VisitSYV goes the extra mile to support its communities through a remarkable grant program. This program not only provides marketing funds for valley events but also invests in community improvement projects, local charities and resident appreciation initiatives.
It’s a testament to their commitment to fostering a strong and vibrant community. One example of a recent grant was to Feed the Valley, a local nonprofit that fights for food security in the SYV.
Awakening the World to the Santa Ynez Valley
The Santa Ynez Valley has scenic charm and a rich viticultural heritage, and is tucked away in the Central Coast’s wine country between Paso Robles and Edna Valley to the north, and Santa Barbara to the south. A perfect stop between these more well-known areas, travelers may unknowingly drive past this hidden oasis.
However, Shelby’s vision is to raise awareness of the unparalleled beauty of Santa Ynez Valley, where visitors wake up just minutes away from the wineries.
Dreaming Big & Breaking Barriers
If Shelby was given a million dollars to spend on anything he wanted, he had no hesitation: he would invest it improving the valley’s infrastructure. Public bathrooms and water refilling stations would be built, along with other subtle essential amenities needed for visitors to fully enjoy their stay.
In a world with no barriers and constraints, Shelby’s dreams for the Santa Ynez Valley know no bounds. With unwavering ambition, he envisions a comprehensive railway system, both above and below ground, that encompasses the entire Santa Barbara County. These trains would connect each community, revolutionizing transportation and accessibility within the region.
If given the opportunity to share a meal with three extraordinary individuals, Shelby’s choices are telling of his curiosity and admiration for great minds. He would love to sit down with Jesus, Nikola Tesla and Ben Franklin, as their remarkable contributions to history and society continue to inspire countless generations.
Honored with Recognition & Achievement
The hard work and dedication of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley have not gone unnoticed. Their remarkable digital campaign earned them U.S. Travel Association’s prestigious ESTO award for the best digital campaign in 2019. The award stands as a testament to the outstanding marketing efforts VisitSYV put forth, beating out finalists like San Francisco and Savannah, Georgia.
Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley: A Must-Attend Event
With his love for the region, dedication to its prosperity and the support of his family, Shelby continues to lead the Santa Ynez Valley into a bright and promising future.
Mark your calendars for Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley, a four-day, six-town celebration of all the SYV has to offer! From Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, immerse yourself in the diverse flavors, scenic landscapes and warm hospitality this captivating region has to offer.
So, what are you waiting for? Come and explore the Santa Ynez Valley, where travel, wine and community thrive. An experience like no other awaits you!
For more information on Shelby Sim and Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, follow Shelby on LinkedIn, or reach out to him at [email protected] if you’d like details on the successes he has had in the Santa Ynez Valley!