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California Tourism Month Delivers Devastating But Effective Message

By Dan Smith 06/05/2020

Delivering California Tourism Month’s message of celebrating the economic power of the Golden State’s travel industry took a left turn after the coronavirus pandemic devastated travel across the state and globally.


But the revised impact message -- highlighting successes in the context of loss and the imperative for swift recovery – resonated across audiences in California throughout May.


By the end of the month, which was first designated by the Legislature in 2016, the approach had generated 81 news stories online, in print and on air. That brought the story to 1.9 billion potential online readers, prompting 2.7 million estimated coverage views and 23,400 shares on social media.


Coverage ran the gamut of in-state and national outlets, notably two pieces in The New York Times and four in the Los Angeles Times and other in-state publications such as La Opinion and The Orange County Register. President and CEO Caroline Beteta did several lengthy broadcast interviews including on KPCC public radio in Pasadena and KNBC-TV4 in Los Angeles.


New content emerged on Visit California’s Travel Matters website, highlighting the 2019 economic impact numbers and describing good deeds the tourism industry has accomplished during the pandemic.


Beteta also carried the message in speeches to industry groups across the state, from hoteliers and Bay Area business leaders to DMOs in Ventura and Palm Springs, among others. In all, she delivered the travel matters message from her virtual podium 10 times in May, reaching an estimated 1,500 influential listeners inside and outside of tourism.


The basic story: 10 years of growth in visitor spending, workforce and taxes generated erased by the pandemic. Hundreds of cities across California lost about half of their annual hotel tax revenue, potentially decimating local services funded by visitor dollars.


It’s not the story we want, but it educated Californians and their elected decision makers about the significance of tourism to California’s economy. It provided a platform to emphasize tourism month’s key messages:



The California Tourism Month work is not done. In June, each legislator will receive an accounting of the power of tourism in his or her district, and the impact coronavirus has had. As lawmakers engineer programs to help economic recovery over the coming months and years, the importance of tourism should be top of mind.

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