SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California tourism leaders are urging residents to spend their pent-up travel dollars exploring their home state, as coronavirus case numbers stay low and the industry reels from a 55% decline in revenue.
The state of nearly 40 million people has been among the most conservative in the U.S. with tight restrictions in place to curb the pandemic.
Now, California has the lowest infection rate in the country and on Tuesday, Los Angeles and San Francisco received permission from the state to reopen bars, restaurants, museums, and businesses more broadly.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who faces a recall election this year due in part to his handling of the pandemic, announced that the state is on track to fully reopen its economy in mid-June.
“It’s a call to all Californians to not only help support this industry, which supports so many jobs in so many small businesses, but also the fact that it’s time you can safely get out in public, again, and I think we all need a little weekend getaway,” said Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
San Francisco and other gateway cities that rely heavily on international tourism were especially hard hit, said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. Spending from international visitors dropped 84% to $829 million last year, and spending on meetings and conventions fell 85% to $275 million.
During the pandemic, the Moscone Convention Center served as shelter for homeless residents, the city’s emergency operations hub, and a mass vaccination site.
“Now it’s time to get this building open for its core function of hosting meetings and large scale events to really support the heart of this city, and you’ll see this happening this fall,” D’Alessandro said.
Beteta said the state lost $12 billion from June 2020 through February as residents left to vacation out of state, including $1 billion that went to Mexico.
“This is about choosing California and choosing your fellow Californians first as a modern day act of patriotism, and helping get the state back on track,” she said.