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October 11-17, 2006

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

San Jo's No Show

By Gary Singh

ONE JUST wanted to scream "Where is San Jose?" last week as a hundred collective folks gathered at AT&T Park in San Francisco for a media event sponsored by the California Travel and Tourism Commission. If you're in the professional business of typing words about your travels, you get invited to these events all the time. For this particular one, tourism representatives from dozens of cities all over California stand at their prospective tables in the AAA Club level of the stadium and hand out press kits and local goods from their city while everyone wolfs down food and discusses prospective travel stories. For example, you walk from the San Diego table to the Ventura table to the Salinas table. It's a great networking event, providing opportunities both for tourism bureaus to hawk their cities and for freelance writers to scavenge for potential story ideas. For example, all I had ever known about Truckee was hand-me-down blather from a few drunken natives who said it's the coldest place on Earth and California's capital for drunk driving. I had no idea that in 1878 it was home to the second largest Chinatown on the West Coast.

Every major California city worth visiting was represented at this event—that is, every city except San Jose. You see, the most hysterical thing about this affair was that the San Jose Convention & Visitors Bureau was nowhere to be found. You had counterparts of all shapes and sizes from all over California: Palm Springs, Humboldt County, Redding, Sacramento and Huntington Beach, just to name but a few. But not San Jose. Here's a town that prints on all its garbage cans that it's the "Capital of Silicon Valley," and they didn't even show up to a massive promotion like this.

The city of Santa Clara, on the other hand, was fully represented and at their table I hooked up with David Andre, whose title is now something like Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Santa Clara Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce & Convention-Visitors Bureau. That's correct—Santa Clara is claiming to be the "center" of Silicon Valley, which makes way more sense than San Jose being the "capital" of Silicon Valley. Santa Clara's press kit says, "'Santa Clara - Silicon Valley Central' is more than a slogan for the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce and CVB. Many of the nation's best-known names in electronics are headquartered here, including Intel, Sun Microsystems, National Semiconductor, NEC Electronics, and Agilent Technologies, making Santa Clara the place where Silicon Valley got its name."

Mr. Andre and I stood there and collectively ridiculed San Jose's no-show at this event, the biggest one of its kind for promoting California tourism to local travel writers. It's just amazing that Santa Clara, population 103,000, proudly hyped its product at such an affair, while San Jose, a place that won't shut up about how it's the 10th largest city in America, didn't. As always, nobody in any position of power in San Jose knows how to market their city at all.

Andre and I also ridiculed San Jose for calling the Mineta San Jose International Airport, "International," when, except for one daily flight to Tokyo, the only other country you can go to from there is Mexico. You can't even go directly to Canada any more. Aaargh.

As if that wasn't ridiculous enough, I then breezed over to a table manned by folks from Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Apparently those two municipalities are pulling a tag-team operation. The Gilroy Visitors Bureau and the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce are combining forces under the banner of the "South Santa Clara Valley Tourism Partnership, the Gateway to the Central Coast."

So there you have it. Gilroy and Morgan Hill are joining forces to promote their cities, but not one single person from San Jose showed up to hype what this place has to offer. That, my dear reader, speaks volumes.

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