Old Town Eureka in the early days of COVID-19. Eddy Alexander wants to bring tourists to these streets again. But not too soon.  | File photo. Andrew Goff


As shelter-in-place restrictions continue to loosen and Humboldt County prepares to eventually reopen to visitors, Eureka’s new marketing firm, Eddy Alexander, is preparing to promote tourism by launching the city’s new brand next week.

For years, Eureka paid the Humboldt Visitors Bureau to market the city to tourists, but the Eureka City Council felt that the bureau’s strategy focused too much on the area’s redwoods for attraction and didn’t highlight enough of the City of Eureka’s other attributes. The council decided last year to search for a new firm to develop a distinct Eureka brand and help promote the town as a premiere tourism destination.

The council awarded Eddy Alexander a $370,000 marketing contract with the city about a year ago, following a controversial selection process between the Virginia-based firm and local organization Humboldt Made, which was the other top contender for the job. Many locals who spoke during the city council meeting on the issue were skeptical about the city hiring a firm from out of the area.

So, have the out-of-towners been delivering the goods? Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel stands by the council’s choice. “I’m really grateful we hired them,”Bergel told the Outpost earlier this week. “They’re doing a great job considering where we’re at.”

And “where we’re at” is a lot to consider right now. Still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketing Eureka tourism has not exactly been a top priority. But with the inevitability of people beginning to travel soon, Eddy Alexander is now ready to reveal to the community the work it has completed so far, and will be launching the new brand digitally on June 18.

Eureka’s fancy new brand was originally slated to launch in April in the form of a public event. But, once the pandemic hit, and a public gathering was no longer possible, the launch was postponed. Though the company could have moved forward with a digital launch in April, Jennifer Eddy — co-founder and chief marketing strategist — said that, with COVID-19 information and regulations changing so rapidly, it did not feel like the right time to do so.

Additionally, Eddy told the Outpost in a phone interview Wednesday, the firm had to revisit and retool the marketing campaign to be more appropriate for the current times, when large gatherings are still not permitted.

“Some of the things we were really eager to promote and tell stories around — like festivals, events that make Eureka so great — are not going to be the things we’re going to promote on day one,” Eddy said.

Eddy said that the upcoming digital launch will focus on engaging the community and beginning the steps toward welcoming tourists to the area. The launch will make public a website which will reveal the city’s new logo and will feature digital mockups of ads. Eddy said that the city plans to do social media call outs and there will be a lot of upcoming opportunities for businesses owners and other members of the community to get involved.

First photo contest winner, taken by Larry Lage

Eddy Alexander has already been making attempts to involve the community by inviting citizens to participate in a survey last year, and by holding a Eureka community photo contest — offering a $500 prize to the three people whose pics of Eureka are selected to be used in advertising and promotion efforts. (This contest is still going on, by the way, with only one of three winners selected. If you have a gorgeous Eureka pic, you can submit it here.)

Eureka’s marketing partners also recently hosted a webinar called “Welcoming Visitors Back” to help businesses owners prepare for tourism and new procedures surrounding reopening, and to share some of the available data surrounding the public’s perception of travel right now. 

Compiling data from statewide tourism research — from agencies like Visit California — and conducting their own surveys, Eddy said it has found that the type of tourism people feel open to is changing and Eureka has the potential to be seen as a very desirable destination moving forward, especially for people visiting from nearby locations like the Bay Area.

People are reporting less interest in flying and more in driving to destinations, especially taking shorter, five to six hour long trips, Eddy said. Also, surveys show that people are more comfortable with the idea of visiting remote locations, avoiding large crowds and focusing more on outdoor recreation. About eight percent of the population nationally, is reporting that they are already taking small weekend trips.

Once the county reopens to tourism, the city of Eureka will need to market tourism and help stimulate the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. But Eddy said it is imperative to find the balance between bringing in the tourism dollars and maintaining public safety. The last thing they want to do, Eddy said, is bring in a gush of tourists when Humboldt is not prepared to receive them.

“The reality is people are going to travel before it is appropriate for us to promote travel. Some of them already are,” Eddy said.“Just because people are travelling doesn’t mean it’s time for us to open up the floodgates. Demand is pent up and we need to be really careful about when and where we’re advertising. We need to make sure the county is ready.”