OAKLAND -- So much is written about Oakland, it seems only natural that people would want to visit.

But, of course, that's not always the case.

Depending on the publication -- and the murder rate -- Oakland is either the new Brooklyn or the old Beirut.

Now the city is launching a $195,000 advertising campaign to market itself to tourists and show that it's more than the proverbial gritty port town or hipster hot spot.

On Wednesday, Visit Oakland, the city's nonprofit tourism bureau, unveiled a new logo during a breakfast gala at the Paramount Theatre. The logo, which features a Bay Bridge backdrop and snazzy script, will appear in travel magazines and billboards.

Visit Oakland has unveiled its new logo, part of a campaign to entice more visitors to the city.   (Courtesy of Visit Oakland)
Visit Oakland has unveiled its new logo, part of a campaign to entice more visitors to the city. (Courtesy of Visit Oakland)

A billboard showing people paddleboarding in the Oakland Estuary and hiking in the hills will go up in Portland, Ore., later this week, tourism officials said.

"We just have to open our arms to the world and say, 'come,'" Natalie Alvanez, Visit Oakland's director of marketing, told the crowd of more than 500 community and business leaders assembled at the Paramount.

City research shows that three-fourths of visitors drive to Oakland, most coming from elsewhere in California. Business travelers make up the highest percentage of Oakland hotel stays.

Aided by the Bay Area's piping hot economy, Oakland's tourism industry is growing.


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Hotel occupancy rates reached 76 percent last year -- 13 percent higher than the national average, city reports show. Hotel tax revenue hit $13 million last year. That's about $4 million more than in 2010 -- or, as Mayor Jean Quan said, about enough money to fund a city police academy.

The city's first new hotel in more than five years is being proposed on 11th Street between Franklin and Webster streets, where an investment group that includes Chinatown businessman Carl Chan is nearing the acquisition of a property.

Oakland still has a lot of catching up to do in attracting tourism dollars. It's overshadowed by San Francisco, and it loses a lot of hotel guests to Emeryville.

Oakland's roughly 4,000 hotel rooms is about half what a city its size should have, Visit Oakland President Alison Best said. The city's 90,000 square feet of convention space also falls far below peers. Even its tourism bureau's $1.6 million annual budget, funded through hotel taxes, is relatively paltry, she said.

And then there is the perception issue. For all the excitement about new restaurants, bars and galleries, a recent Visit Oakland research report found that crime remains an issue for tourists and that the tourism bureau must work hard to counteract the city's negative image.

"Other people tell our story," Best said about media coverage of the city. "But we are going to take that back. And we're going to tell our story."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.