Tourism is $126 billion state industry

From left, Kim Lawson Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman and Rhonda Salisbury, executive director of the bureau at Visit California’s 2017 Outlook Forum Feb. 27 at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara.
From left, Kim Lawson Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman and Rhonda Salisbury, executive director of the bureau at Visit California’s 2017 Outlook Forum Feb. 27 at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara. Submitted Photo

More than 500 tourism industry leaders from throughout the state and around the world gathered Feb. 27 and 28 in Santa Barbara for Visit California’s 2017 Outlook Forum

Attendees, including representatives from Visit Yosemite Madera County, Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, and Kim Lawson, creative director, shared best practices and mutual success stories in the promotion of tourism while determining how best to continue to grow California’s $126 billion tourism industry that provides one million statewide jobs.

In 2015, the most recent stats available from the stare, tourism spending in Madera County was $274 million, while providing for nearly 3,300 jobs with a payroll of $92 million.

“With California’s tourism industry reaching more global markets than ever, the forum provides an opportunity to bring our industry together to chart a strategic course for the future,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “We brought the top minds in our industry with a dynamic roster of trendsetters, influencers and innovators who will shape the next generation of tourism in the Golden State.”

Beteta previewed the next generation of tourism marketing in the Golden State and highlighted Visit California’s successful global marketing campaigns that continue to position California as a top destination for global visitors each year.

A variety of presentations provided insight into the global tourism landscape, the latest marketing research, and strategies from experts on a wide range of topics including top trends in consumer decision making and the latest data showing the tourism industry’s eighth year of record-setting growth in total visitor spending, job creation and tourism generated tax revenue in 2016.

“The hot topic for the conference was the Executive Order regarding travel,” Salisbury said. “We heard from Visit California offices all over the world and the general consensus is that International Travel will be strong again this year. The biggest worry among most international travelers were exchange rates. Even Mexico reported that travelers from Mexico felt that California was very welcoming to them and they were going to keep their travel plans.”

Salisbury explained that another popular trend is in the use of video. “Whether you take it on your cell phone and post to Instagram or Facebook … or have a professional video produced, travelers love to see video,” Salisbury said.

Salisbury said not only did she get to see what state tourism leaders are doing to market California to the world, but she had the opportunity to personally network with Visit California public relations and media representatives from their 13 international offices including Australia/New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Salisbury said the county, especially the Mountain Area, is expecting another good year of visitation this year, but not quite as busy as 2016.

“We are expecting about a 5% decrease from last year’s record high visitation that we felt was due in part to the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and the first year of “water” in several years.”

Travel Impacts on California

Total direct travel spending in California was $126 billion in 2016, a 2.8 % increase from 2015.

Travel spending in California directly supported more than one million jobs in 2016 (30,000 jobs added over 2015), with earnings of more than $41 billion.

Travel spending in 2016 generated $10.3 billion in state and local taxes.

NOTE: Finalized 2016 numbers as well as county breakdowns will be released in early May during National Travel and Tourism Week. Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. Details on Visit California: