California Tourism Leaders Convene at State Capitol; Detail Huge Losses in Visitor Spending, Jobs, and Taxes

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

California Tourism Leaders Convene at State Capitol; Detail Huge Losses in Visitor Spending, Jobs, and Taxes

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media gathered today to hear from tourism experts on the impact of the pandemic on the industry. Updated travel forecasts predict travel-related spending and taxes generated in the State are projected to lose billions of dollars than previously thought this year.

“The profound economic disruption caused by the pandemic has been felt by all sectors of our economy, but the tourism industry is bearing more of a burden than most,” said Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, Chair of the Committee. “As California’s post-pandemic future begins to take shape, reviving our tourism and travel industry will play a vital role in restarting the economy and empowering the state.”

According to a testimony provided by Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California, the state is set to lose more than $78 billion in travel related spending this year and is not expected to return to pre-coronavirus visitor spending levels until 2024.

The hearing commenced with an overview of the impact from Visit California, the state’s industry-led tourism non-profit, followed by a description of the marketing organization’s focus on responsible and safe travel aimed at Californians who are already traveling. Regional theme park, restaurant and hotel leaders also shared how the pandemic has affected workers, businesses and local governments.  

“The pandemic has hit California’s tourism industry harder than other states, particularly in our gateway urban centers,” Beteta told the Committee. “Just eight months ago, California was the nation’s top tourism economy. It’s now among the worst-performing. Only five states have lost more visitor spending since March.”

In 2019, visitors spent $144.9 billion in California, according to Visit California’s latest economic impact report. That spending supported 1.2 million jobs throughout the state and $12.2 billion in tax revenue for state and local jurisdictions. In 2020, those numbers are projected to drop to $66.1 billion in spending, 594,000 jobs and $6.4 billion in state and local taxes. Moreover, hotel taxes – the money hotel visitors pay in nearly every city to fund local services such as police and fire services, are projected to fall from $3 billion to $1.4 billion.

“Safety is paramount for our employees; safety is paramount for our visitors,” said Joe D’Alessandro, Chief Executive Officer of San Francisco Travel. “The business meeting sector is collapsing across the State because California rules will not allow larger indoor gathering, despite distancing and sanitation protocols that have provided successful elsewhere. Opening our meeting venues is the next step we would like to see done.”

“How many more workers and families must be impacted for this government body to react? One more is one too many.” Frank Santos, United Here.

“We are ready to help, ready to step up, and we are ready to do it. Our parks are ready to reopen in a responsible manner now,” said John McReynolds, Senior Vice President of Universal Parks and Resorts. “Let us be part of your solution in reopening our State and get people back to work.”

“Monterey Bay Aquarium has been the anchor of tourism on the Monterey Peninsula since we opened our doors in 1984,”said Julie Packard, Executive Director of Monterey Bay Aquarium. “There is an obligation that needs to be maintained for the thousands of animals that are in the care of our aquariums and zoos. It has been estimated that our Aquarium will lose $40 million in tax revenue this year and projected losses are triple that total in years to come.”