Rural tourism is essential to California’s economy

(Photo: Thomas Thompson and
Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas (Photo: Thomas Thompson and

Editor’s note: Caroline Beteta, CEO and President of Visit California, and Patricia Megason, Executive Vice President of Rural County Representatives of California, co-authored this editorial, which ran on and other websites.

“Tourism is everyone’s business in California. As the nation’s largest tourism economy, the industry is a major pillar of California’s success with more than $117.5 billion in direct travel spending last year. This supports more than 1 million jobs and generates nearly $9.4 billion in state and local tax revenues.

“Millions of travelers explore California’s top tourist hubs such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego each year, creating an economic engine that powers not only these regions but also the entire state. Yet, we often overlook how important tourism is to rural communities, and how the industry helps sustain the California dream. Rural communities are home to the majority of California’s natural resources, providing the state with clean water, clean air and unsurpassed recreational opportunities. In addition, our rural communities boast picturesque landscapes, rich history and a multitude of outdoor activities for every age.

“From iconic state and national parks, to hiking and rock climbing, wine and beer tasting and numerous agricultural festivals, there is something for everyone to enjoy when visiting these regions. For those who call these rural areas home, visitors are a leading source of economic prosperity. For example, according to a recent report by Dean Runyan Associates, over half of all Mariposa County jobs (52 percent) in 2013 were generated by travel and tourism. Across the state, travel and tourism is among the top five export industries in terms of employment in all of California’s rural regions.

“Additionally, tourism generates local revenue needed to support residents in these more remote and underserved parts of the state. Rural counties rely heavily on visitor-generated sales and occupancy taxes. For example, in Mono County visitor spending supported the equivalent of more than $8,000 in state and local tax revenue per household. Visitors provide 57 percent of taxable sales in the county.

“There is a strong incentive to ensure the tourism industry continues to fuel local economies. Despite the Golden State’s allure, competition for tourism is fierce. We can’t simply sit back and hope that travelers will discover the sometimes hidden gems of our vast state. Global marketing efforts to promote California as a travel destination are essential to growing local economies, especially in rural areas. In 2014, marketing efforts sponsored by Visit California returned $327 in visitor spending for every dollar invested by the tourism industry. As the Runyan report shows, many of those dollars bolstered rural economies, fueling the approximately $8.9 billion that was spent in California’s rural counties last year.

“While we will always see an influx of tourists to the major gateway cities, it is important that we continue our work to bring them deeper into the California experience. If California’s recent economic growth is to continue, we must support industries that can provide benefits in all corners of the state. We should not overlook the power of tourism to create jobs, opportunity and sustain services in rural California.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

4 thoughts on “Rural tourism is essential to California’s economy”

  1. Jeff, When I ran for GV Council last time I submitted the following tourism related Press Release. GV didn’t seem interested at the time. I’m not sure if anything has changed.
    Jim Firth, a candidate for Grass Valley City Council, believes it’s time for all Western Nevada County government entities –– in collaboration with local building trade professionals and chambers of commerce –– to consider a destination resort appropriate for this region. Then, once a plan has been agreed upon, a ballpark estimate of costs can be determined and serious financial planning can begin.
    “Right now, there’s a general feeling of support for the idea of a first-rate destination resort,” Firth said, “but we’re kind of shooting in the dark insofar as costs and amenities are concerned. We need a plan based on reality and supported by the affected stakeholders.”
    Firth believes the planning concept is too big for any one entity to undertake and said it will require a joint effort involving engineers, contractors, financial consultants, chambers of commerce, government representatives and others. Firth said the expertise for planning and designing such a facility is available locally and that people will volunteer to help if asked.
    “Keith Davies at the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce has been suggesting a destination resort for the past couple of years, and I agree with the idea,” Firth said, “but it will not happen until we come together and develop a single model with common goals.”
    Which amenities to offer guests is an issue Firth believes a joint committee could sift through, eventually determining priorities based on consensus and finances. Should it have a golf course, tennis courts, pool, performance center? Should it be a public/private partnership, or built by private industry resort specialists? Where would it be located and how could all chambers of commerce benefit from the transient occupancy tax? These are questions Firth says can be answered if all affected parties’ come to the table with open minds.
    “It might take a year or longer to create a comprehensive, attainable plan, but I believe it is a concept worth pursuing,” Firth added. “A first-class resort in Western Nevada County with the kind of amenities that upscale travelers are looking for would certainly help boost the local economy. The first step,” he said, “is for this half of the county, working together as a community without boundaries, to pool our collective talent and get to work.”

  2. No, Jim. It’s about both. In our community, we tend to be longer on “vision and goals” and shorter on money and execution.

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