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California Tourism Poised to Lead Economic Recovery

As California Tourism Month begins, resilient industry embraces power of possibility, rebuilding travel and hospitality workforce

SAN FRANCISCO (May 4, 2021) – 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.

Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, today joined California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel, to kick off California Tourism Month at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

“The California travel industry’s underlying strength and enduring resilience aligns with California Tourism Month’s key message: the ‘Power of Possibility,’” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “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 long-term outlook for California tourism has brightened. Tourism Economics projects domestic visitor spending in California will reach 76% of 2019 levels this year. In 2022, domestic spending will hit 94% of 2019 levels, and total visitor spending, including resurgent international travel, will hit 87%. Read the full economic outlook here.

“California is open for business,” said Lt. Gov. Kounalakis. “I encourage Californians to support our small businesses and begin to make travel plans. Together, we can help the tourism industry bounce back, while safely enjoying all that our beautiful state has to offer.”

The Golden State remains among the best-performing states in case counts and vaccination rates and has implemented long-term health measures so visitors can feel safe.

California’s current travel advisory hews to the Centers for Disease Control guidance: Vaccinated travelers are less likely to get or spread COVID-19 and can travel safely in California. They are not required to test or quarantine before or after travel unless they have symptoms concerning for COVID-19. The travel advisory strongly discourages unvaccinated people from making non-essential trips to California.

The outlook for summer travel in California is very positive, as the state expects to remove most restrictions by June 15 – just before summer officially arrives.

The majority of California’s abundance of tourism assets – theme parks, museums, concert halls, restaurants and wineries among them – are moving toward normal operations.

“Consider booking a trip to see what California’s cities have to offer,” D’Alessandro said. “From iconic attractions, cultural institutions and world-class dining experiences, the options are limitless – and it will make a big difference in speeding up our collective recovery."

As Californians resume traveling, they have the power to jumpstart the state’s economic recovery by choosing to keep their trips within California.

“California’s tourism industry has long provided Californians with a strong civic foundation and generated billions of dollars in state and local tax revenues to help provide services that benefit everyone in the state,” Beteta said. “Now residents can help their fellow Californians by keeping their tourism dollars in California and supporting local businesses as a modern-day act of patriotism.”

But there is plenty of work to do, particularly to re-build the vibrant travel and hospitality workforce. A month after the mid-March lockdown, more than half of the 1.2 million tourism workers found themselves without jobs. Some described the impacts of the pandemic in this video.

Even as the economy re-opens and businesses gradually offer more services to more consumers, the foundation of the industry – its people – still strive to return to work in a safe and confident manner that makes economic sense for them and their families.

Looking ahead to California’s reopening in June, Visit California will leverage California Tourism Month to inspire consumers to begin imagining possibilities for trips to the Golden State, announcing the launch of a “Dreaming On in California” campaign.

From couples who had to cancel weddings, to skipped milestone birthdays, to families who missed a year of holidays, consumers are invited to share their stories of postponed dreams in 2020 at for the chance to make them come true – only bigger than they imagined. Submissions are open through May 24 with experiences set against California’s epic backdrop – taking place June 21-25.  The California Legislature designated every May as California Tourism Month in 2016.

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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 For story ideas, media information, downloadable images, video and more, go to

Media Contacts:

Dan Smith
Visit California Public Affairs Manager
(916) 802-6708

Eric Saldivar
(916) 753-4728