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2024 California Tourism Month
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2023 Travel Spending in California Fully Recovered from Pandemic

As California Tourism Month begins, Visit California’s annual economic impact report shows travel spending surpassed $150 billion in 2023, setting record for the first time since 2019

SACRAMENTO (May 5, 2024) – California’s tourism economy generated $150.4 billion in travel spending last year, surpassing the record $144.9 billion spent in 2019 and overcoming the devastating impacts of the pandemic, according to economic impact research Visit California released today.

The Economic Impact of Travel in California, prepared by Dean Runyan Associates, detailed spending that is 3.8% higher than 2019 and 5.6% higher than 2022.  Spending exceeded 2019 levels in 34 out of 58 counties. Three of California’s four international gateways – San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties – exceeded 2019 travel spending levels, while San Francisco was 97.2% recovered.

“California tourism is back where it belongs – setting records and providing for the workers, business owners and all Californians who depend on the travel industry as a cornerstone of our state’s economy,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, the state’s tourism marketing organization. “The industry has once again proved its ability to recover from any challenge, whether it be economic or environmental. California continues to be the largest, most diverse and most resilient tourism economy in the United States.”

The report was released today at the start of California Tourism Month, the state designation adopted by the Legislature in 2016 to recognize the contributions of the United States’ top tourism economy to Californians’ financial livelihoods and personal well-being. View the full economic report. 

The $12.7 billion in state and local tax revenue generated by visitors in 2023 marked a 3% increase over 2019. Tax revenue generated by travel in 2023 saved every California household $966.

Tourism created 64,900 new jobs in 2023, bringing total industry employment to 1,155,000. That’s 98% of 2019 levels, before the pandemic shut down businesses and put more than 500,000 travel and hospitality workers out of work in a matter of days. International visitors spent $24.3 billion in California in 2023, a 38% increase over 2022 and 15% below the $28.6 billion peak in 2018. Travelers from China and other parts of Asia have been slow to return after the pandemic, hindering full recovery from the international sector.

Visit California has reopened offices in 13 international markets, and to accelerate the momentum of international visitation growth, California this week is proudly hosting IPW, the leading international inbound travel industry trade show, in Los Angeles starting May 4.

News of travel spending’s recovery comes as Visit California launched The Ultimate Playground in March, its first new global brand platform in more than a decade. Grounded in research from the National Institute for Play that says traveling is a proven benefit to one’s physical and mental well-being, the new brand asserts that California’s playful lifestyle, paired with its abundance of experiences, create the ultimate playground. The first commercial under the brand platform can be found here. Take a short quiz to find your play style and get ideas to explore it in California.

Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor's Guide, go to VisitCalifornia.com. For story ideas, media information, downloadable images, video and more, go to media.VisitCalifornia.com.

Dan Smith
(916) 802-6708