Traveler spending in California hit a record $126.3 billion in 2016, a force that generated $10.3 billion in tax revenue and supported 1.1 million jobs.
Those are the key findings of a new report from Visit California, a nonprofit organization that develops marketing programs to promote the Golden State as a premier travel destination. The report shows that traveler spending grew by 3.2 percent last year, outpacing the nation by nearly a full percentage point.
“This report shows that tourism is a leading provider of job opportunities, and it boosts local businesses and brings valuable dollars to our state and local economies,” Caroline Beteta, Visit California’s president and CEO, said when the study was released Thursday.
Money enough to fuel the state’s general fund
Beteta put that $126.3 billion in travel spending into context.
“That’s enough to cover the state’s general fund for the entire year,” she said. “And it’s bigger than two-thirds of the world’s economies by GDP.”
Los Angeles County led the way
Los Angeles County provided the state’s biggest economic kick in 2016 with travel-related spending that topped $26.8 billion. That took into account everything from travel expenses and eating at restaurants, to staying in hotels and buying souvenirs, products and services in the region.
The report also shows that the county employed 203,700 people in the tourism industry last year, an increase of 4.3 percent. Those workers collectively earned nearly $11 billion, and all of that activity generated more than $2.2 billion in state and local tax revenues.
Travel business was good in Pasadena
Michael Ross, CEO of the Pasadena Center Operating Co., said 2016 was a “banner year” in his city. The nonprofit corporation manages the Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Pasadena Ice Skating Center.
“Pasadena hotels are doing fantastic and occupancy and ADR (average daily rates) were strong in 2016,” Ross said. “Pasadena hotels had an 82.9 percent occupancy rate and the ADR increased by 9.5 percent. The Sheraton, Hilton and Westin are making substantial investments and renovations and we’re excited to debut them in the fall.”
In 2016, the city hosted 29 conventions, including the American Choral Directors Association/Western Division, QuiltCon, the International Reliability & Physics Symposium and the Society of Architectural Historians.
Orange County by the numbers
Orange County ranked fourth in travel spending with more than $11.6 billion spent last year. The county employed 102,660 people in tourism who earned more than $4 billion. Travel activity there generated $920 million in state and local tax revenues.
The Inland Empire also saw plenty of activity
Riverside County ranked fifth on the list with more than $7.6 billion in travel spending. It’s tourism workforce numbered more than 78,000 and they earned north of $2.3 billion. The county’s travel business fueled $577 million in state and local tax revenues.
San Bernardino County landed in seventh place with more than $4.7 billion spent on travel. The county’s 54,400 tourism employees earned nearly $1.5 billion and all of that travel equated to $348 million in tax revenues.
California’s numbers are even more impressive over the long term.
Using data on the statewide and local economic impacts of tourism in the state from 1992 to 2016, the report shows that over the past 25 years travelers in California have spent nearly $2.16 trillion, created more than 410,000 jobs and generated more than $165.3 billion in state and local tax revenues.
When asked how President Trump’s proposed travel ban that targets seven predominantly Muslim countries would affect tourism in California, Beteta said, “It’s a very fluid situation,” she said. “And there are so many additional factors that affect someone’s intent to travel, including their confidence in the economy, the value of the dollar and safety and security. Every day is different and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of sway policymakers have on travel.”
Trump’s proposed travel ban could have negative impacts
A UCLA Anderson Forecast released earlier this year said the Trump administration’s proposed travel restrictions and crackdown on undocumented immigrants could slow the production of food, clothing and home-building in California and also cost the state billions in tourism dollars.
It also said California’s tourism industry will likely suffer a “double-whammy” as a result of the nation’s less friendly environment for foreign nationals coming to the U.S. and from the higher value of the dollar which makes U.S. more expensive and less attractive to foreign tourists.
Travel spending in California hit a record $126.3 billion in 2016 – The Pasadena Star-News