The Travel Forecast

February 18, 2021

The Latest COVID-19 News and Legislative Update

As the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported in early February, the number of cases of COVID in Santa Cruz County dropped by 55 percent toward the end of January, as the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency stresses continued preventative efforts moving into spring. State and local modeling data shows a possible surge in infections occurring in March and April, tapering off in May. Statewide, cases of COVID continued to drop over President’s Day weekend, falling below the summertime peak for the first time in three months. For the first time since mid-November, California is averaging fewer cases than at its previous peak last summer.

California lost $78.8 billion in visitor spending in 2020 and more than half of leisure and hospitality jobs were lost due to COVID. Hotel tax revenue, which funds a host of municipal services in cities across the state, was down 55% to $1.4 billion. It is anticipated that $45 million for tourism marketing could deliver $10.3 billion in revenue to California businesses and $865 million in additional state and local tax revenue. Two new bills in the state legislature targeting reopening California for visitors are now in the state legislature.

Senator Mike McGuire (D – 2nd District) has introduced Senate Bill 285 – the California Tourism Recovery Act on behalf of the California Travel Association, the California Broadcasters Association, and the California News Publishers Association authorizing a one-time $45 million allocation to extend the reach of Visit California’s destination marketing program this year. Currently, SB 285 has been referred to the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee (Senate B&P) and will be heard sometime this spring. Cal Travel is asking industry members to sign this coalition letter that will be sent to members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees and Senate B&P requesting the $45 million allocations for Visit California as the state reopens to get Californians traveling and back to work. 

One of the co-authors of the bill, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, has submitted Assembly Bill 420 to hasten the safe opening of California theme parks. Several other bills and state budget decisions could affect the tourism industry as the legislative session picks up momentum this year. Both Sen. McGuire’s and Assembly Member Quirk-Silva’s bills have already received bipartisan initial support.

City of Santa Cruz Water Update

In mid-January, Santa Cruz received roughly three inches of rain.  In a normal year, 10 inches of rain is usually seen, so the City of Santa Cruz Water Department is carefully monitoring water levels. With Loch Lomond – the city’s only drinking water source – at 74 percent capacity by the middle of last month, the City of Santa Cruz is sharing its monitoring with the public. Many factors come into play when the city forecasts the water outlook for the season and whether residents will be asked to ration water, including rainfall, streamflow into the San Lorenzo River, Reservoir storage, and cumulative discharge from the San Lorenzo River. In addition to water usage by hotels and restaurants, recently Santa Cruz Local published a news story relating the impact of new development on water demand.

The water department also shares their analyses with the Water Commission and City Council. The information is used to determine whether water restrictions are needed. In early February, this analysis was shared with the Water Commission and City Council. As of February 7th, Santa Cruz County had only received 12.79 inches of rainfall. For now, the Water Commission will continue to measure water and create recommendations for water use over the next month or two to present to the city council as well as update the Water Shortage Contingency Plan should rationing be needed by summer. The public can view weekly updates on the city’s water supply status here. The public is invited to get involved in local water issues.  The Santa Cruz Water Commission meetings are held on the first Monday of each month at 7PM online. Learn more about upcoming meetings here.

Share Your Upcoming Events and News with Visit Santa Cruz County

As Santa Cruz County continues to operate during the pandemic with a hopeful outlook for 2021, VSCC would like to hear about activities and events that local restaurants, retail businesses, and attractions are planning for this year. With an ongoing online events calendar and a robust social media and media relations program, local events and news are of particular interest to VSCC. Here is what we are looking for and how you can submit information:

VSCC is looking for information about COVID-safe:

  • Online performances
  • Virtual arts and cultural experiences (online concerts, lectures, discussions, readings, DIY crafts)
  • Guided outdoor hikes or other adventure experiences
  • Self-guided tours
  • Private tours
  • Virtual cooking and wine, beer, or spirit tastings
  • Live events hosted on social media channels
  • Holiday-specific activities and events (St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, etc)

To submit information to be considered for a free online event listing, use this online form.

For consideration for inclusion in social media and media outreach efforts, including the latest edition of Cruz News, VSCC’s travel media newsletter, use this form to tell us about any such activities or events on the horizon. We’ll share details in an article on our website.

ERC County Blueprint Status Report

The weekly County Blueprint Status Report related to COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County is available for the week of February 16th in English and Spanish. These updates are provided by the Economic Recovery Council of Santa Cruz County (ERC). Information from the ERC aligns with state and county health officials, Governor Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County.   

VSCC Accepting Board Nominations

VSCC and its Nominating Task Force are soliciting nominations to the Board of Directors. VSCC is governed by a twenty-five-member Board of Directors comprised of representatives of various regions of the county, thirteen lodging seats, and a cross-section of representatives of businesses, cultural, governmental, and organizations with affiliation to the travel and tourism industry. Responsibilities include participation in the governance of the organization, general advocacy for the tourism industry, and active participation at board meetings held six times per year. Board members serve for two terms. Click here to download an application form. Deadline to apply is Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

Staycation Hotel Offers Wanted

Is your hotel, motel, vacation rental, or bed and breakfast inn offering any staycation offers for locals?  Santa Cruz County residents who may want a break from sheltering-in-place can benefit from a getaway in their own town.  If your property is opening its doors to locals with packages or specials, let us know about it to be featured on VSCC’s social media channels!

Clean + Safe Kudos!

Congratulations to the Bella Notte – the Inn at East Cliff and Four Points by Sheraton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley which received Clean + Safe certification from the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA). As a reminder: all lodging properties are members of CHLA and have the capacity to become certified as a benefit of their membership. Find out how your property can become Clean + Safe certified here!

Did you know……

that California State Parks has launched a Forest Health Initiative at Castle Rock State Park thanks to a grant from CalFire? With the aim to selectively thin overabundant Douglas firs and brush to preserve black oaks and other hardwood tree species, this effort will also reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Black oaks are a rare and essential part of the Santa Cruz Mountains ecosystem that requires active management to continue thriving locally. This initiative will protect black oak woodlands, and many other fire-dependent plant communities as well as the animals that depend on them and is the first step towards restoring a historically biodiverse landscape that was carefully tended by native Ohlone people prior to European colonization.

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