TORRANCE -- The Discover Torrance Visitors Bureau is gambling that the former head of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and Visitors Bureau can jump-start the low-profile group.

Ralph Witsell was recently named executive director of the local visitors bureau, which was formed in January 2011 by a consortium of local hotels.

Witsell spent a decade at the helm the Northern Nevada gambling hub's tourism bureau, pursuing a strategy in which the area was rebranded as "America's Adventure Place" in concert with nearby Lake Tahoe.

But tourism has declined in Reno, with high gas prices and the rise of Indian casinos in California hammering visitation, The New York Times and other media outlets have noted.

"The city of Torrance offers so much opportunity to both leisure travelers and small to mid-sized meetings and conventions," Witsell said. "Torrance offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy a genuine Southern California experience -- beaches, shopping, easy access to major attractions -- without the traffic congestion and high price tag of many Los Angeles area locations."

The local visitors bureau has largely been invisible since its creation, with no discernible strategy to attract tourists, city officials have acknowledged privately.

The group's first executive director quit soon after she was hired to take a position closer to her Orange County home.