Previously Ed Fuller served 40 years with Marriott Hotels as CMO, Regional Vice-President of Operations and President and Managing Director of Marriott Lodging International for 22 years. He has served as CEO of the OCVA for the past six years, developing the organization’s international outreach strategy and helping to increase visitation to Orange County, California for five straight years. He is an author (You Can’t Lead with Your Feet on the Desk and Red Hotel), adjunct professor at University of California and San Diego State, and recent recipient of the HSMAI (Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International) Lifetime Achievement award.
After serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army and being awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for service during missions in Vietnam and Germany, I wanted to pursue a career in the airline industry, but the airlines were not hiring. I learned Marriott was the largest in-flight food and beverage provider for the airlines, so I decided to pursue the airline industry through Marriott

Still intending to work for the airline, I got a job with Marriott working in the kitchen, preparing the food, not in-flight. That was not the job for me! I really didn’t know anything about hotels, but it was suggested to me that I might be interested in pursuing the hotel division instead. Marriott had an opportunity at the tie for in-house weekend sales in Washington D.C. So, that’s where it began, I dove into hospitality and ultimately spent 40 years with Marriott International.



You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?

To bring visitors to Orange County. The visitors constitute a significant economic impact and create jobs. The fact that Orange County is so totally unique from beaches to Disneyland  Resort & Knott’s Berry Farm. Outdoor sports — surfing to fishing — extraordinary dinning, spectacular accommodations, the largest convention center on the West Coast of America and fabulous shopping. There is so much to offer and it’s my goal to let the world know they are welcome in Orange County.


The Southern California market is a vast one — how does Orange County position itself to stand apart? 

“Orange County is in the Heart of Southern California” which has everything that represents the California life style plus 42 miles of beaches, spectacular shopping, world-class lodging & entertainment, and more than 40 golf courses.

Huntington Beach Pier.

The major targeted areas that Orange County seeks to outreach to both domestic and international is where?

Domestically, our primary focus markets are San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago and Denver. Internationally, China is the big one, followed by Mexico, the Middle East, India and Japan.


How do you assess visitor feedback? 

As a regional marketing organization, we aren’t in direct contact with visitors and rely on our partners at the DMO, hotel and attraction level to supply us with information as to visitor experience. Likewise, we closely monitor reporting from our state tourism entity, Visit California, on what drives visitor decision-making and satisfaction.

Costa Mesa – Avenue of the Arts – Tribute Portfolio Hotel.

What roles does such information provide in terms of how you put together various future campaign promotions?

We build our messaging around five brand pillars that connect visitor desires to what we have to offer here in The OC.


How important is the impact derived from visitors who are golf oriented?

Golf-oriented visitors are an important audience for us, as they cross several consumer segments, from luxury leisure traveler, to business traveler to family traveler. At OCVA, we don’t have specific stats on the golf traveler as separate from these other groups, but we know they contribute significantly to visitor spending and overnight stays.

Irvine – Shady Canyon.

How much of an emphasis does Orange County take in elevating the visibility of the various golf offerings it provides?

It varies by market. For example, golf figures significantly into our domestic messaging, particularly our drive-markets and direct fly markets like Phoenix. Less so for some international markets, such as China, where there is some cultural sensitivity around golf.


Do you gather information statistics related to golf activities — such as rounds played, lodging visits directly tied to golf and other elements associated with the sport?

Not at this time.

Costa Mesa – South Coast Plaza.

So much emphasis is placed on reaching out to Millennials given their ascending  role. What’s the approach taken by Orange County in this regard?

We don’t treat Millennials as one lump audience. Our messaging is experience focused and designed to appeal to niche interest groups, vs age groups. For example, we would target urban moms with school-aged kids as opposed to Millennial females.


The short and long term challenges facing Orange County in attracting visitors is what?

Orange County is known to a wide number of our visitors. Over 50 million visitors each year are drawn to the wide diversity of activities and beautiful facilities. The three big draws are the 42 miles of beaches, Disneyland, and exceptional resorts, conference and convention facilities, including the largest Convention center on the West Coast.

An ongoing short-term challenge for Orange County is how to set ourselves apart and help others understand while Orange County is in Southern California, it is separate and a different experience from LA and San Diego. This is especially a challenge internationally where we will continue to focus our outreach in China, the Middle East and Mexico.

Orange County has endless opportunities to market the destination to international travelers, but the challenge is finding the resources — manpower and financial means — for Orange County to get into other international markets like Canada, Japan and India, for example, and be effective in making an impact.

Restrictive Visa regulations in China continue to negatively affect Chinese travelers from visiting the U.S. Orange County Visitors Association has spent five years visiting media, travel and tour operators in China and while they are interested in booking trips to the U.S., getting a Visa is a challenge. We will continue to work with this market and the relations we’ve built and invite them to experience Orange County, regardless.

Laguna Beach – Heisler Park.


For more info go to: