California Convention Center Leaders Still Waiting on Guidelines

News from California that indoor events of up to 200 people can resume under limited conditions did not placate convention leaders and labor groups who remain disappointed that Governor Gavin Newsom still has not issued statewide guidelines for trade shows and conventions.

“We’re still waiting,” said Barb Newton, president and CEO, California Travel Association in a press statement. “The guidelines issued today don’t help convention centers at all and continue to send a signal to other states that California is closed for this business indefinitely.

“Every other state has issued guidelines for trade shows and conventions but California. We are losing business every day to Arizona, Texas, Florida and other states that are all hosting large events safely. It’s very frustrating that we have no guidelines, but other large indoor spaces like malls and retailers are open for business and operating safely with approved modifications.

“We can’t even confirm we’ll be able to hold events later this year or in 2022. Every month that goes by is billions in lost revenue and jobs. Governor Newsom needs to take action now to reopen this sector and get our hundreds of thousands of employees back to work.”

In early March, 134 travel and tourism groups and labor officials sent a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to issue guidelines to end the uncertainty causing clients to cancel large events planned in late 2021 and even in 2022. They called on Governor Newsom to focus his attention immediately on this sector of the economy which accounted for $66.1 billion in direct spending and 457,000 jobs in 2019. For every month California delays opening for large events like trade shows and conventions, the state is losing $4.1 billion in economic activity, according to two studies from Oxford Economics released in October 2020.

News that California is opening up, more vaccines are available and vaccination ages are being lowered sets expectations among groups looking to book here that large gatherings will resume at some point. But, the California Travel Associations says, without guidelines from Governor Newsom, potential clients looking to book events in California see lack of guidelines as a signal that California still could be closed indefinitely.

“The Ontario Convention Center was going to host the Home School Convention, but the group just cancelled their annual conference. This booking would have brought $2.1 million in economic impact to the region and employed at least 205 workers in the Ontario area, but instead the convention is looking to Arizona or Nevada,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO, Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau

Steve Goodling, president and CEO, Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau added, "We just lost a national youth volleyball tournament that would have generated $9.3 million for the community, bringing 12,000 parents and kids to Long Beach this summer."

The California travel industry finalized a plan in June 2020, which outlined how California could safely hold meetings. The plan 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. Still the administration has yet to adopt it or release guidelines of its own.

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