Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Oct. 25. I’m Justin Ray.
California is home to some of the most popular tourist destinations. Millions of people from across the world come to the Golden State to see Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite National Park, and so much more.
However, the pandemic obviously meant tourism was going to suffer. April 2020 was the single worst month in the pandemic for California travel spending, according to Visit California, the nonprofit marketing group for the state. California residents spent only $2 billion. For comparison, residents spent $12.2 billion in July 2021.
The pandemic impacted tourism unevenly across the state. It might sound odd, but rural areas fared well during the pandemic, as city folks escaped living in close proximity to others. In fact, some popular rural California destinations ranked among the most searched-for spots on Airbnb, the company told the Guardian in Sept. 2020.
I looked into how California’s tourism recovery compares to its rival, Florida, and what the industry’s future looks like for the state.
CA vs. FL: A war for tourism
My colleague Hugo Martín previously reported on the battle between California and Florida when it comes to tourism. The two states had very different strategies for handling the pandemic: California adopted aggressive policies like social distancing and closures to prevent the spread, while Florida didn’t.
As a result, California had fewer infections. But Florida did manage to surpass California in three key tourism vitality indicators: total travel spending, hotel occupancy rates and the number of airline seats on planes bringing in visitors (however, at no point did Florida bring in more revenue than California).
In May, ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles International Airport broke a 2021 record for passenger traffic. However, Visit California said in a Sept. 2021 report that both lodging demand and airline travel remain below 2019 levels.
An estimated 31.7 million people traveled in Florida in the second quarter of 2021 (between April 1 and June 30), according to Visit Florida. But there’s the thing: this number is only 2.2% below the number of people who visited during that period in 2019.
How California plans on helping the tourism industry
In order to drum up business, the state invested in a $95-million, one-time stimulus that supported Visit California, which in turn has started, among other things, “Calling All Californians.” The marketing campaign is meant to encourage residents to explore their own state.
California used a similar strategy following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — a time when Americans didn’t trust flying on a plane. Immediately after the attacks, California saw a 50% drop in tourism. But the state was able to patch up a significant portion of the losses by the end of the year with a campaign focused on those who are already here.
For tourism, there is a big day on the horizon: The U.S. will open its borders to vaccinated foreign travelers starting Nov. 8. The hope is that California’s tourism industries will regain footing with international visitors.
Visit California estimates that the tourism economy will surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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California’s job growth slowed last month, and its unemployment rate remained high as the state, still pummeled by the coronavirus’ Delta variant, struggled to recover economic momentum. California payrolls saw a net gain of 47,400 jobs last month for a total of 16.67 million. That was well below the 94,700-job rise in August, or the 101,500 additional positions the state averaged from February through September this year, state officials reported. In related labor news: After decades of stagnating wages and diminishing pension and healthcare benefits, followed by a grueling 19 months working long hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, many American workers are fed up. And a small but growing number are organizing. Los Angeles Times
Heavy rain unleashes mud, debris flows in Northern California areas burned by wildfire. Emergency response officials have been bracing all week for the worst days of the storm — and it finally arrived late Saturday evening. Light scattered showers in Northern California, already burned out by a summer of fire, morphed into an increasingly heavy downpour overnight. By Sunday morning, the torrential rainfall had shut down at least one critical highway as mud, rocks and unshackled debris flushed down denuded hillsides. Los Angeles Times
The fight over the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The shopping center has deep roots in the historically Black community of South Los Angeles. When the property went up for sale three years ago, hundreds of community members sprang into action to take control, redevelop and reinvigorate it as a community hub. However, it was purchased by a large developer known for building high-end housing developments in L.A. Now, locals fear the landmark will bring unwanted gentrification. They plan on filing lawsuits to halt the project. Capital and Main
A solution for gentrification in South L.A.? ‘Don’t sell your damn house!’ Homes in Crenshaw, West Adams, Hyde Park, Leimert Park and, of course, Baldwin Village and View Park, now regularly sell for north of $1 million. Bidding wars among white families are common. Ask many residents and they’ll call what’s happening a crisis of unchecked gentrification and displacement. A small but growing number of Black Angelenos, though torn, prefer to see what’s happening in South L.A. as an opportunity. One that if seized by enough Black people could lead to an unprecedented transfer of generational wealth and, by extension, slow the pace of gentrification. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
California’s recall election officially ends as Newsom prepares for 2022. Election results showing California voters refused to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom were certified by state officials Friday, bringing to an end a historic and bitter recall effort. With all the votes tallied, the recall failed by a substantial margin: 61.9% of the votes were to keep Newsom in office through the end of 2022, while only 38.1% of voters cast ballots to remove him. Almost 5.5 million voters left their ballots blank on the question of who should take Newsom’s place if the recall passed. Los Angeles Times
CRIME AND COURTS
A 43-year-old woman was jailed after Coronado police say she slipped into a home while the owner was away, changed the locks and listened to music as she made herself at home until police arrived, the department said Friday. A neighbor called police just before 11 p.m. Thursday after she noticed lights going on and off inside the Alameda Boulevard home. The neighbor is a relative of the homeowner and knew the owner was out of town. The neighbor handed police a spare key to the home, but when police went to the door, they found metal shavings on the ground and pieces of an old lock, the department said. The spare key no longer fit. San Diego Union-Tribune
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Millions more Californians are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster. The campaign to insulate California against another winter coronavirus surge got a major shot in the arm late last week when federal health officials adopted criteria that will allow millions of additional residents to receive COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. Eligible recipients will be able to book appointments for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters as soon as Friday. “If you’re eligible — get your booster,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Friday morning. “Protect yourself and loved ones this winter.” Los Angeles Times
The 50 best places to eat tacos in Orange County. Are you a fan of tacos and Orange County? If you are, I have some good news for you. The OC Register is out with a list of the best taco joints in the area. The paper identifies the cream of the crop, like a Michelin-starred restaurant and incredibly dope taco trucks. OC Register
Yacht dealers and boat workers are dealing with what they say is the largest supply-and-demand disparity since the freewheeling, big-spending days that preceded the Great Recession. The number of new boats sold in the U.S. in 2020 hit a 13-year high of nearly 320,000 vessels, up 13% from the year before, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Assn. “The biggest problem we’re having is we can’t get boats fast enough,” said Trenton Carroll, who has been in the business for two decades. Los Angeles Times
A Riverside high school teacher has been placed on leave after a viral video recorded by a student showed her hollering and dancing around a classroom in a fake feathered headdress, sparking outrage from the Native American community, school officials and local politicians. The video, which was posted online on Wednesday, shows the teacher chanting a mnemonic device — “Sohcahtoa,” often used in math courses to remember trigonometric functions — while stomping around the classroom and making chopping motions. The video has more than 3.7 million views on Twitter and hundreds of reactions on Instagram. Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles: Rainy 62. San Diego: Rainy 66. San Francisco: Seems like a gloomy day for everyone. Rainy 62. San Jose: Wow, even San Jose. Rainy 64. Fresno: Fresno too! Rainy 62. Sacramento: Grab your umbrellas folks! 63.
Katy Perry was born October 25, 1984. She opened up to us about giving birth to her first child in Aug. 2020.
Frank Ocean was born October 28, 1987. He is my future boyfriend. I’m putting that into the universe.
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