San Bernadino looks to raves to boost economy

Ravers dance at the "Nature One" electronic music festival in the former U.S. missile base Pydna near Kastellaun, Germany, on August 6, 2011.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Rave-like concerts are bringing in the crowds and cash for San Bernardino, Calif. Now, the city's top tourism official says the region needs a strategy designed to embrace those events, and showcase the area an entertainment destination.

San Bernardino Convention & Visitors Bureau president Wayne Austin says the concerts can mean a lasting economic boon for the area some 60 miles east of Los Angeles. "San Bernardino can manufacture entertainment," said Wayne Austin, president and chief executive officer of the San Bernardino Convention & Visitors Bureau to the San Bernadino County Sun He added that he hopes to bring other types of music to the area to help promote the image of San Bernadino as an entertainment capital.

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The Sun reported a concert at the National Orange Show Events Center (NOS) in late Oct. drew 45,000 people. A similar event in late September drew 55,000 people. Most of the attendees were from outside the area including visitors from Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles counties, as well as Phoenix, Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay area. San Bernardino hotel room occupancy registered 97.5 percent that night, compared 44.9 percent on the same night a year earlier.

An economic study shows smaller events provided a $6.5 million boost to the San Bernardino area economy.

Dan Jimenez, general manager of the NOS, told The Sun that it will be hard to find another musical genre with enough pull to bring as many visitors as electronic music has. He cited the fact that the events not only bring in top talent in electronic music scene, but utilizes massive word-of-mouth "underground" marketing that is central to bringing in the large crowds. Other music styles have yet to successfully tap into that technique as well as electronic music has.

Austin says the good will and positive image those visitors took home with them should be tapped to heighten San Bernardino's name recognition. "There is a heightened awareness of San Bernardino, and we should capitalize on that," he said.