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Destination Ready

Year in Review FY20/21



The COVID-19 pandemic created by far the most challenging year in history for California's tourism industry. Throughout it all, Visit California worked tirelessly to protect the California brand and position California's tourism industry for a quick recovery. 

Visit California was born from crisis: After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake jolted the world with terrifying headlines and images, industry leaders built an organization to create demand for California and inspire people from around the world to come visit. Since then, Visit California has helped the tourism industry recover from past crises — the Sept. 11 attacks, the Great Recession and wildfires, to name a few.  

Visit California is ready to once again drive a resurgence in travel and help thousands of tourism businesses across the state recover from 2020’s challenges. These efforts will be supercharged by a one-time injection of $95 million in state stimulus passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom — a show of confidence in the tourism industry’s ability to lead the state’s economic recovery.  

While recovery is priority No. 1, the pandemic underscored longstanding challenges to our industry, such as the importance of responsible visitation and the threat of worsening wildfire seasons. Visit California is supporting the industry to alleviate these problems, creating a healthier California for its residents and businesses.

With these forward-looking goals in mind, this annual review encapsulates the past fiscal year while also looking ahead to future initiatives. I hope you are inspired to engage with Visit California to accelerate your recovery, grow your business and create a healthier tourism industry.  

Above all, thank you for your continued support.  

Dream Big, 

Caroline Beteta
President & CEO
Visit California



As a 501(c)6 nonprofit, Visit California strives to minimize operational costs and maximize the ROI on the industry’s investment.
Fiscal Responsibility FY20/21
According to an external audit, more than 92% of Visit California’s budget goes directly to marketing programs.


Nonprofit organizations generally average between 65% to 80%.

To help California’s tourism industry navigate the pandemic, Visit California invested in new research and created platforms to draw attention to the industry’s challenges. For the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks, Visit California’s Board approved in-state marketing programs to keep California top of mind while travel restrictions were in place.



The Responsible Travel Code laid out the expectations that anyone moving around would travel responsibly. The code reinforces a long-term commitment to California stewardship by outlining cultural and environmental sustainability best practices. To drive media coverage of responsible adventures in the Golden State, the organization invited influencers to take #RespectCalifornia road trips.




The social video campaign inspired future visitation of all 12 California tourism regions, with an additional video released in winter to promote snow season.




This PSA inspired adventure even as it communicated an important safety message that Californians easily adapt to a new normal. A modest investment yielded high market penetration through a 3:1 match from the California Broadcasters Association.




To boost responsible, local travel while conserving funds for a post-pandemic marketing push, Visit California recorded new safety-focused voiceovers for an unaired in-state travel campaign. The three 30-second “Safe Travels, California” videos showed how industry safety protocols kept guests safe and allowed them to enjoy relaxing staycations.





As California’s tourism industry welcomed back travelers, Visit California accelerated the return of tourism with marketing and initiatives that reached consumers during must-see TV events, on high-visibility billboards, in influential travel magazines, in the news, on the internet and through the most popular travel booking platforms. These integrated efforts boosted visitation to all California regions and industry segments.




The “What If, California” campaign promoted the power of possibility through the peak spring season to inspire visitation by U.S. travelers and accelerate the state’s economic recovery.




Visit California’s in-state campaign showed California residents how to get away from it all in their home state and encouraged in-state travel as an act of civic pride.




With the “Born To Be Wild” TV spot already produced and set to air before the pandemic, California was first to market with its national drive travel campaign at a time when many consumers viewed driving as safer than flying. The campaign received a jolt of star power from Oscar winner Kevin Costner, who appears on the cover of the new “California Road Trips” publication.



Year in ReviewPAID
• $27 million investment
1.1 billion impressions
• 99.3 million broadcast households reached

Year in ReviewOWNED
9.9 million unique visitors to Visit California websites
2.8 million social engagements
12 million e-newsletter sends
3.5 million partner handoffs
Year in ReviewEARNED
• 800+ placements 
241,000 influencer engagements
3.2 billion earned media impressions

Year in ReviewTRAVEL TRADE
• New
domestic audience
• 117,000+ travel advisors reached
17 trade shows


Visit California is guided and funded by more than 18,500 businesses across all segments and regions to benefit the entire tourism industry.



Download a summary of DESTINATION READY: Year in Review FY20/21 from the toolbar or email to request a more comprehensive mailed copy of this annual report.