California’s tourism industry nosedives, as pandemic devastates economy

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Californian tourism has been on a growth curve for more than a decade. However, the coronavirus outbreak seems to have put the brakes on it.

Tourism Economics projects California will lose $72.1 billion in state-wide travel related spending in 2020. It has also found the pandemic will affect 613,000 California jobs by the end of May, which is more than half the tourism industry’s workforce.

“The coronavirus pandemic has devastated our tourism economy, but we know tourism is a resilient industry,” Ernest Wooden Jr., the president and CEO of Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, said in a statement. “It’s critical Los Angeles is in a pole position to restore tourism and these economic benefits to our residents when the time is right.”

The sharp downturn follows California’s best tourism year yet. Visitors pumped an all-time high $24.7 billion in 2019, generating a record $37.8 billion in total economic impact, according to Tourism Economics. Visitor spending in California had actually increased 3.4% from 2018.

According to Tourism Economics, the industry supported 544,700 leisure and hospitality jobs, employing 1 in every 8.4 workers in LA County.

Visitors to the state spend money on food, hotels, rental cars, souvenirs and more. Tourism Economics say California’s tourists spent $144.9 billion in 2019, a 3.2% increase over 2018. Travel and tourism had added 13,000 jobs last year, increasing 1.2 million. Travel-generated tax revenue also grew for a 10th straight year, bringing $12.2 billion to state and local governments, a 3.4% increase over 2018.

When residents can freely move about again safely, they will be critical to helping restore California’s tourism.

“When that time arrives, we’ll be calling on Californians to become the main drivers of recovery by traveling in the state, shopping locally and visiting local restaurants, wineries and attractions,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, in a statement.