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Sebastopol pursues 'slow-city' version of tourism

There always will be a place for hotel mini-bars, luxury suites and room service, and for the kinds of go-go-go vacations that whisk people to the latest museum exhibit, to the trendiest restaurant, to a must-see show.

But some of the folks in Sebastopol would like to suggest another way: travel at a more relaxed pace, something more organic, more mindful of the natural world and open to the sharing of experiences with strangers encountered along the way.

That's the idea, at least, behind a burgeoning movement to promote the city and surrounding environs as a kind of ecotourist destination — one that caters to those interested in outdoor recreation, in connecting with the land and food production, in meeting new people and experiencing a place the way the locals do. Maybe even staying with one.

Full House Farm

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The campaign, an off-shoot of the city's designation nearly four years ago as an official Cittaslow city — literally "slow city" in Italian — is motivated by a desire to build tourism and the economy in a manner that reflects and benefits the local culture and community, organizers say.

The volunteer Cittaslow Sebastopol steering committee is developing a public campaign it hopes to roll out later this year highlighting the city's slow vacation cred, co-chairwoman Tasha Beauchamp said.

More immediately, it's promoting expansion of home stay and farm stay opportunities of the sort made popular through Airbnb, VRBO, Farm Stay and other Internet sites through which property owners can reach out to potential short-stay visitors.

A workshop is scheduled for March 1 for people interested in learning what's involved in opening a home or farm to paying guests, and what tax and use regulations might apply.

<NO1><NO>"It just felt like the kind of thing that would resonate with our town, and indeed we are getting a tremendous reception," Beauchamp said.

Christine Cook, a farmer who has hosted hundreds of guests on her West Sexton Road property over the past decade, will be a leader at the workshop. A primary benefit from participating in the movement is developing a second income, she said, but "It's also a way to share our county with tourists, and specifically Sebastopol. We're just a really cool little town.

The Cittaslow Sebastopol crowd considered using phrases like "green hospitality" and "slow tourism" to describe the new thrust. But for the moment, participants decided the principles of ecotourism closely matched their vision of a respectful, environmentally aware, mutually beneficial tourism industry, Beauchamp said.


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