Tourism spending in Tuolumne County down $ 100 million in 2020-2021 | New
Tourism spending and tax revenue in Tuolumne County fell $ 100 million in 2020-2021 from the previous fiscal year, generating a record $ 273 million in combined tourism dollars before the COVID-19 pandemic does not strike.
The county’s 36.8% drop in tourism revenue in 2020-2021 compares favorably with that of California as a whole, which saw a 55% drop, according to travel and tourism research firm Dean Runyan Associates, of Portland, Oregon.
“We know that since the start of this calendar year there have been a lot of visits,” said Lisa Mayo, executive director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, also known as Visit Tuolumne County.
County room tax revenue – also known as transitional occupancy tax, or TOT – for the first half of this year was higher than 2019, up 42% in the first quarter and 15% in the second quarter, Mayo said.
Comparing this year to 2019 makes sense as it is the most recent pre-pandemic calendar year on record and set a new record for tourism in Tuolumne County, officials say.
“It’s good,” Mayo said of the 2021-2019 comparison. “Airbnbs and private vacation rentals have worked well. We don’t know if this is sustainable as we believe a lot of people have rented them for weeks and worked with them. We don’t know what the travel expenses will look like as we currently have mostly domestic travelers. International travelers tend to spend more money because they stay longer.
The COVID-19 test is mandatory for all international air travelers entering the United States since January 26, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
There has been no ban on international tourists coming to California, the Central Sierra and Tuolumne County, although COVID-19 protocols have nonetheless served as a deterrent to tourism.
One of the unknowns Mayo and his staff face this year remains when international travelers return to the region to pre-pandemic levels.
“When will international travelers be allowed to return? ” she asked. “Is the delta variant going to set us back internationally and nationally?” Will we once again have to focus only on the local? “
Jeff Michels, president of the Tuolumne County Lodging Association and co-owner of Sonora Inn and the under-renovating Hotel Lumberjack, said on Monday that international travel is a key factor for the county’s tourism industry.
“What I think we’re seeing across the board is a significant increase in room rates,” Michels said Monday afternoon in a phone interview, “but we’re not seeing a return to levels just yet. occupation we had in 2019.
“What we can anticipate in 2022 is that we will be able to maintain or increase the same high rates that we have now this season, and we will return to our occupancy levels of 2019, which will translate into by significantly higher incomes, across the accommodation industry and for the TOT generation.The caveat to all of this is the return of international travel.
Mayo said she and her team see an opportunity to promote the region for business meetings and retreats during the current fiscal year that began July 1, as people will want to come together in small groups and in rural areas.
“We are in the process of developing a meeting planning guide for small corporate meetings, board retreats, weddings, and so on. She said.
When international markets fully open, Visit Tuolumne County will partner with San Francisco Travel for an international campaign focusing 50% on the UK, 25% on France and 25% on Germany, said Mayo.
It will be a cooperative promotion that will include the international travel trade, tour operators and travel agents, “and bring Tuolumne County on their routes which will focus on a year or two,” Mayo said. “The big boost will be to highlight outdoor activities throughout the year, which also creates an opportunity to educate about sustainability.”
Tourism officials are also eagerly awaiting the scheduled September 30 expiration of Yosemite National Park’s day-use reservation system, which aims to reduce the number of visitors to the park during the pandemic.
Mayo said reservations, which are required to enter the park, are “difficult for accommodation properties when they have guests coming to visit Yosemite but may not be aware of having to make usage reservations. day in advance “.
The bottom line for the rest of this year and the first half of 2022 is that the county’s tourism opportunities “will change as we see how COVID-19 unfolds,” Mayo said.
“No matter what happens, we will create new ways to support our local businesses,” she said. “They are so important and so appreciated.”
Aggregate statistics from Visit Tuolumne County’s 2020-21 annual report show that travel spending and travel tax revenue total $ 173 million in direct travel spending locally.
The county’s tourism industry also equates to 2,100 jobs, the totals of which do not include spending or job creation by Black Oak Casino Resort or Chicken Ranch Casino, according to Dean Runyan Associates, who estimated employment in county casinos have over 1,500 jobs.