California's Tourism and Labor Officials Call on Governor Newsom for Reopening Guidelines

Frustrated officials and union leaders representing California’s business travel, events and conventions industry are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to issue statewide guidelines clarifying under what conditions business meetings, events and conventions in California can resume someday.

In a letter to Governor Newsom, signed by 134 tourism officials and labor groups, advocates said California is losing business and jobs to other states, not just currently but in 2022 and beyond, because of the uncertainty caused by a lack of guidelines.

The group 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 business meeting and events, the state is losing $4.1 billion in economic activity, according to data comes from Oxford Economics released in October 2020.

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 and no guidelines for safe future reopenings have been issued or even discussed by the Newsom administration. 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 press 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 pointed out that nearly all other states are safely holding business meetings, events and conventions right now. The California travel industry finalized a plan in June 2020, 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 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, the group said.

“The lack of guidance on professional meetings in California is devastating our local economy and other states are benefiting,” said Scott White, president and CEO, Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Over 40 meetings representing 13,481 jobs have cancelled so far and we are now losing groups for the fourth quarter of 2021.” 

This is happening because planning and booking for this sector of the economy requires 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 come with them—when it appears California is closed indefinitely.

Even if the governor issued guidelines tomorrow, communities and California stand to lose billions more revenue and thousands of Californians will remain out of work, the group added. 

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