Legislative Hearing on California Tourism Recovery  

Oct 16, 2020
Ca tourism Recovery hearing
Legislative Hearing on California Tourism Recovery  

Leaders from a wide spectrum of California tourism organizations addressed the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media at an informational hearing on the effects of COVID-19 on California tourism and the road forward. Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, the committee Chair, was joined by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, Assembly Member David Chiu and State Sen. Richard Pan.

View the leave behind from the hearing.

Participants illustrated the severity of the tourism industry’s economic and human crises with high-level data, but also zeroed in on the challenges — and possible solutions — particular to their segments and businesses. Common themes included:

  • The need for clearer and more consistent policy and communication from the Capitol
  • Economic support for businesses prohibited from opening
  • The industry’s ability to operate safely, as it has in other states and abroad
  • The crisis facing tourism industry is both more severe and economically significant to California than legislators might realize
  • California is lagging competing markets in reopening and losing business
  • People are going out, gathering and traveling regardless of government policy, and tourism businesses offer one of the safest environments for these activities

The legislators in attendance were sympathetic to the industry, and at times critical of the Capitol current administration’s response to the tourism crisis. “We really want to hear details, we want to be here to find out how we can help,” said Chair Quirk-Silva during her opening remarks.

Assembly Member Chiu reinforced this statement by pressing each speaker for concrete policy suggestions to bring back to the State Assembly. “This is an industry that has been utterly decimated. I’m here because I want to hear every idea that is out there and what we can do to move things forward,” he said.

  • [23:45] Committee opening remarks
  • [30:40] Caroline Beteta, President and CEO, Visit California provided a high-level overview of the economic challenges facing California tourism and the state of California, and shared Visit California’s history in combatting crisis. She walked through the organization’s long-term recovery marketing strategy and it’s current focus on safety messaging to a California audience.
  • [57:50] Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of San Francisco Travel addressed the hardships caused by the loss of business travel and conventions. He offered solutions for restoring business travel, which included hybrid virtual meetings, smaller meetings and statewide meeting protocols.
  • [1:17:11] Dan Harvey, Division Vice President, Hertz Corporation showed how the pandemic devastated a Fortune 500 company with a hundred-year history. He reviewed the rigorous safety standards put in place by rental cars and requested clearer statewide guidelines to aid drivers traveling across California counties.
  • [1:37:50] Frank Santos, a chef for Terranea Resort before the pandemic, represented Unite Here, a nonprofit advocating for AB 3216, which would require employers to rehire laid-off service workers. He shared his moving personal story and spoke to the struggles of his colleagues.
  • [1:45:53] Joe Matekel, Business Agent, Teamsters, Local 665 shared the struggles of the often overlooked workers who perform jobs such as collecting airport trolleys and washing rental cars.
  • [1:53:10] Lisa Allen, Operations Manager, Amador Stage Lines detailed challenges specific to bus-line operators, such as paying registration fees and the loss of service years as the clock runs on end-of-life emissions regulations while busses idle.
  • [2:01:40] Erin Guerrero, Executive Director, California Attractions and Parks Association argued that California theme parks are ready to open safely. She focused on the ways parks offer a more controlled, and thus safer environment than many currently permitted activities, as well as the disconnect between California’s park guidelines vs. those elsewhere in the U.S.
  • [2:15:50] John McReynolds, Senior Vice President, Universal Parks and Resorts echoed Guerrero’s sentiment and shared in detail the elaborate safety protocols Universal has implemented at parks around the world to overwhelming success. He made the point that should California parks be allowed to reopen, the state will receive the benefit of this field testing and feedback from a wide array of health agencies.
  • [2:35:24] Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium explained the peril facing all wildlife attractions due to their high operating costs during closures. She shared how the closure of zoos and aquariums means the loss of free educational opportunities for California’s schoolchildren as well as valuable tourism revenue.
  • [2:48:00] Emmelia Zamani, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy, California Travel Association reiterated the vast scope of the economic crisis facing California’s tourism industry and communities throughout the state. She advocated for a $45 million stimulus for Visit California’s recovery marketing program.
  • [2:55:03] Dan Gordon, Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. CEO and Visit California Board Chief Fiscal Officer explained why the current limited-capacity restaurant reopenings are inadequate to save most businesses. He proposed several concrete suggestions regarding reopening procedures, worker pay and tax policy to help struggling restaurants.
  • [3:07:23] Sima Patel, Ridgemont Hospitality CEO and former Visit California Board Chair advocated for additional support for the hard-hit accommodations segment and built on Beteta and Zamani’s arguments that Visit California’s marketing programs can restore billions in lost tourism revenues.


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