Figures from the state tourism agency show hotel occupancy in March 2021 at around 64%.That is an improvement from all of 2020 when tourist spending in California was just 45% of the amount spent in 2019, before the pandemic hit. But the state is likely to take years to recover fully from the devastating impact on business from COVID-19. 

Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California says, “The pandemic has been an enormous challenge across the globe, and tragically has taken lives and livelihoods. California — and California’s travel and hospitality industry — are well-positioned for recovery.” 

The state tourism agency says visitor spending in California dropped to $65.10 billion in 2020, only 45% of the 2019 amount. The last time tourism spending in California was below $60 billion was 1996.

Now it will take time to recover warn officials but Californians can do their part.

International travel to lag

The agency reports that travel-related spending from Domestic visitors is expected to recover to 76% of 2019 levels in 2021, while International spending will only recover to 32%.

Total travel-related spending in California is not expected to reach pre-coronavirus levels until 2024. Overall, Leisure travel (personal trips) could recover to 82% of 2019 volume in 2021, while Business-related travel will only recover to an anemic 44%.

Tourist spending across the state should make a slow recovery with this year predicted at 76% of 2019 numbers, improving to 86% in 2022 and finally showing a little growth at 101% in 2023.

Back in 2019 -$6 out of $10 spent at local visitor destinations  were attributable to residents of other states and countries.The GDP of the California travel industry was $84.6 billion in

2019, which represents about 2.5 percent of the total GDP of the state. Then in 2020, both international and out-of-state travel dried up. And Californians stayed at home too.

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted California’s travel and hospitality businesses, but the economic power of the industry fueled by Californians themselves can ignite a robust comeback says the agency. Indeed, Californians are hitting the road this month in huge numbers. 

While some big travel distinctions like San Francisco saw their total dollars fall dramatically,the tourism based hotels on the Central Coast had wild swings in their numbers by month.  

Meanwhile mid-state hotel occupancy as of March 2021 is about 66% in Fresno, 67% in Visalia and 65% in San Luis Obispo — all up from March 2020 when the pandemic set in.

In fiscal year 19/20 through June 30 last year, Visalia’s bed tax revenue fell 11.5%. The city's Transient Occupancy Tax decreased as COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on the travel and hospitality industry, enhanced by the lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by the State of California.

Occupancy rates fell to 39% in California hotels in March 2020. Now the prediction for non tourist regions like the Central Valley is that room revenue that fell 33% in 2020 should grow 19% this year, increase by 11% in 2022 and another 18% in 2023.

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