Ontario councilman raises concern about Torrance ad

It was only meant to draw people out to the beach, not cause a controversy.

An advertisement promoting the city of Torrance that has appeared in the Daily Bulletin has Alan Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority, concerned it is an attempt to “poach business” from the Inland Empire city.

Wapner recently said he felt the ad was meant to capitalize on LA/Ontario International Airport’s dwindling passenger activity and aimed at Ontario as a way to lure business to Torrance. The South Bay city is near Los Angeles International Airport.

“We’ve seen states poaching other states but this is the first time I’ve ever seen another city come to Ontario, attempting to steal business and I can’t help but think it has to do with the airport,” said Wapner, who also serves on the City Council.

He made the comments during the Aug. 5 meeting of the authority which focused on the recent declines at the medium hub facility. Passenger traffic at the Ontario dropped 32 percent from 2007 through 2009, it continues to experience annual declines.

Officials with the Torrance tourism district said it is all just a misunderstanding.

The statewide campaign, “Beach the Heat” is an attempt to attract the leisure traveler to Torrance, said Linda Amato, a member of the board of directors for Discover Torrance.

“Like any ad campaign it’s meant to bring people to the area,” she said. “This is really for the family that doesn’t want to fly anywhere but is looking for an inexpensive trip.

Discover Torrance is part of a tourism business improvement district between Torrance and several hotels in the city. Funds are collected from the participating hoteliers to market and promote Torrance lodging businesses.

Ralph Witsell, executive director of Discover Torrance, said the campaign launched a couple of weeks ago and will stop at the end of this month.

The ad features images of surfers, a salad and a shopping center, with the wording “Torrance. 20 (degrees) Cooler. 100 percent Chill.”

While Amato admits the Inland Empire was targeted, she said it was mainly because of its distance to the beach community. There are even plans to run the ad as away as Phoenix, she said.

“When it’s 112 degrees in Ontario, it’s only 68 degrees. This is for someone who wants to stay in Torrance,” she said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the airport.”
Witsell, who use to be in the airline industry, said he is well aware of the issues Ontario has been facing, losing traffic to the bigger, and busier Los Angeles International Airport.

He added that he could relate to the challenges of promoting a market that is in competition with Los Angeles.

“We’re both great alternatives to the big hustle of LA,” he said.

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