The Pasadena Convention Center and Visitors Bureau today joined frustrated officials representing California’s travel, events and conventions industry in calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to immediately issue statewide guidelines clarifying under what conditions their industry can resume business.
In a letter to Newsom signed by 133 tourism officials and labor groups, advocates, including the Pasadena Convention Center, said California is losing business and jobs to other states going forward because of the uncertainty caused by a lack of operating guidelines.
“Business meetings and events create thousands of jobs locally. The lack of guidelines is devastating for our industry,” said Jeanne Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena Convention Center and Visitors Bureau. “Over 500 events have been canceled locally and will continue to cancel without clarity on business meetings in California.”
The COVID-19 global pandemic has crippled Pasadena’s economy, especially the tourism industry: closing hotels, restaurants, small businesses, and entertainment venues. The heaviest toll on job loss has been in the hospitality community, accounting for 43% of all job loss in Los Angeles County, according to the statement released Thursday.
Cities across California anticipate an 89% decline in Transient Occupancy Tax, T.O.T., in 2020.
Locally, hotel occupancy and average daily rates have dropped 50% and 30%, respectively. An estimated decline of $8.6 million in TOT and $3.5 million in Tourism Business Improvement District, TBID, funds is projected for fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022. Over 500 events have been canceled at the Pasadena Convention Center, amounting to a loss of $15 million in revenue. In addition, Pasadena hotels have lost over $92 million in revenue.
In the letter, the groups called on Newsom to focus immediately on their industry, which accounted for $66.1 billion in direct spending and 457,000 jobs in 2019.
Currently, according to two studies from Oxford Economics released in October, the state is losing $4.1 billion in economic activity a month due to the lack of meetings and events.
Tourism and labor officials say that the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy makes no mention of business meetings, events or conventions. Nor does it provide guidelines for safe future re-openings or even discuss them.
Potential clients looking to book events in California see this as a signal that California is closed indefinitely.
“We’re not asking Governor 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 and CEO of CalTravel, in a prepared statement.
“These events bring more than just direct revenue and jobs. They bring people who spend money on hotel rooms, restaurants, local shops and services. The ripple effect is huge and benefits both large and small communities but we’re losing the benefits to other states,” Newton writes.
Newton pointed out that nearly all other states are currently safely holding business meetings, events and conventions. The California travel industry finalized a plan in June which outlined how California could also safely hold meetings. It adhered to standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and included best practice recommendations for sanitation, staff training, physical distancing, and communication.
But the Newsom administration has yet to adopt it or release guidelines of its own.
In the meantime, California is losing revenue and jobs as customers are backing out of events for late 2021, 2022 and beyond.
This is occurring primarily because planning and booking for this sector of the economy require several months and sometimes years of lead time. Convention centers, hotels and other meeting venues can’t compete for future events — including the jobs and desperately needed local revenue that comes with them — when it appears California is closed indefinitely.
Even if the governor issued guidelines tomorrow, the state and its communities stand to lose billions more in revenue, and thousands of Californians will remain out of work.
Every other state has released protocols, and many have been safely holding meetings during the pandemic, but California has prohibited meetings of any size since the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect last March.