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Economic Impact of Travel in California 2011-2020

Authored by Dean Runyan Associates, Inc.

Impact Report
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(Date Of Publication: May 17, 2021)

California travel impacts in Total, and by region and county from 2011 to 2020.

These economic impacts are based on "statewide visitor trips," which are defined as trips taken by individuals who stay overnight away from home, or travel more than 50 miles one way on a non-routine trip. This definition of a visitor is derived from the California Tourism Marketing Act. Some destinations in California calculate visitation and economic impacts using different definitions of visitors and different data-gathering methods, so figures may not match.


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global economic hardship. The travel industry has been especially hard hit, even more so than during the Great Recession.
  • Direct travel-related spending in California totaled $65.1 billion in 2020 a 55 percent decrease from the previous year.
  • Direct travel-generated employment neared 860.9 thousand, a 26.8 percent decrease over 2019.
  • Travel-generated state and local tax revenue was $6.1 billion in 2020, a decrease of 50.2 percent over the preceding year.
  • Visitor air travel on domestic flights to California destinations decreased by 64 percent in 2020.
  • Visitors who stayed in hotel, motel or short term rentals spent $34.6 billion in 2020, a decline of 53.3%.
  • More than 450 jurisdictions in California levy a locally administered transient lodging tax. This tax, ranging from 4 percent to 15 percent, is collected on the sale (i.e., rental) of a room at a lodging establishment such as a hotel, motel, bed & breakfast or at a campground site.
  • CA TOT data can be reviewed or downloaded here - California Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) by Jurisdiction.

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California’s travel and tourism industry is represented by accommodations, transportation and rental cars, restaurants, retail stores, attractions, gasoline service stations, and other businesses that serve travelers. Traveler spending benefits tourism providers across all industry segments and across all of California's regions.


Travel-related spending in 2020 supported 860.9 thousand jobs statewide. Direct impacts represent earnings attributable to travel expenditures made directly by travelers at businesses across the state, while indirect impacts are from earnings associated with industries that supply goods and services to tourism businesses.

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