Officials and union leaders representing California’s business travel, events and conventions industry called on Gov. Gavin Newsom this week to immediately issue guidelines clarifying under what conditions the events can resume.
In a letter to Governor Newsom released Thursday and signed by the San Diego Tourism Authority and 133 other advocacy, business and labor groups, the critics said California is losing out to other states as the pandemic continues.
Without guidelines, they argue, the business and job losses to the multi-billion industry could extend to 2022.
“We’re not asking Gov. Newsom to open California to business meetings and events tomorrow, we’re asking for a plan today so we can safely hold events in the future,” said Barb Newton, President & CEO, CalTravel. She added that “the ripple effect is huge” from such events, and that the economic benefit is being lost to other states.
In the letter, tourism and labor officials say that the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy makes no mention of business meetings, events and conventions.
Those looking to book events in California see the lack of guidelines, or even a discussion of future re-openings, as a signal that the state is closed indefinitely. Potential clients already are canceling for late 2021 and next year, the officials said.
And they have other options. Newton noted that nearly all other states have allowed business meetings, events and conventions to resume.
California has prohibited meetings of any size since the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order went into effect almost a year ago, on March 19, 2020. Restrictions will ease, though, on April 1 for sporting events and amusement parks.
The California travel industry finalized a plan in June 2020 outlining how meetings could be held safely, adhering to standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Public Health. Officials say the governor has not acted on it.
“It is imperative that the state move as quickly as it can to issue thoughtful and responsible guidelines,” said Julie Coker, president & CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “There’s too much at stake for California to be the outlier among states with no guidance.”
The travel and event sector of the economy accounted for $66.1 billion in direct spending and 457,000 jobs in 2019. For every month California delays opening for business meeting and events, the state loses an estimated $4.1 billion in economic activity, according to studies from Oxford Economics.
“Business meetings and events create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Tommy Faavae, IBEW Local 11 in Pasadena. “The direct jobs are in hotels and convention centers, but thousands more come from those who do set up, sound systems, construction and other ancillary work. Last year was devastating for everyone who worked in this sector of the economy. The governor can help make sure 2021 and beyond will bring back this industry to where it was prior to the pandemic.”
In addition to the tourism authority, San Diego-area businesses and groups that signed the letter include the San Diego Convention Center, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Visit Oceanside and Evans Hotels.