California Travel Looks to Bounce Back After Dramatic Decline During COVID-19

March marked one year since the coronavirus changed the way Californians live and work. This spring carries a sense of optimism as vaccines become more widely available. But recent data outlining the pandemic’s devastating effects on the state’s tourism economy illustrate just how challenging a year it was for the travel industry and how much work it will take to climb back to 2019 travel spending levels.

The coronavirus halted a record 10 years of growth for California’s tourism economy in 2020, erasing $86 billion in visitor spending and 518,000 travel and hospitality jobs throughout the state. More than one-third of the jobs lost in California in 2020 were in the travel and hospitality sector.

The sharp decline in California’s tourism spending—representing a 60% fall from pre-pandemic levels—resulted in an economic fallout 10 times worse than the drop in travel spending that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

No industry’s workforce has felt the impacts of the coronavirus as acutely as travel and hospitality. According to California’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, job losses hit the leisure and hospitality industry far harder than other economic sectors, with nearly a million jobs erased in the early months. New research from Visit California shows Black and Hispanic workers in the industry have been especially hard hit.

Fortunately for the thousands of Californians who depend on the tourism economy, the travel and hospitality sector has historically been among the fastest creators of jobs and drivers of economic recovery. State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) is hoping to give the travel industry an extra boost by providing marketing support to Visit California to promote in-state travel and get California’s tourism industry back on its feet.

As California continues to see increased vaccination efforts and positive movements toward a safe and responsible reopening of local economies, travel and hospitality is primed to lead the state back to economic health and put Californians back to work.

This article was written by VisitCalifornia.

The California Chamber of Commerce is the largest, broad-based business advocate to government in California, working at the state and federal levels to influence government actions affecting all California business. As a not-for-profit, we leverage our front-line knowledge of laws and regulations to provide affordable and easy-to-use compliance products and services.