The Travel Forecast

January 21, 2021

Santa Cruz County Occupancy Update

The latest report on occupancy from Smith Travel Research shows that the state and local hospitality industry has suffered from declining numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a slew of travel restrictions and stay-at-home health guidance. While Santa Cruz County hotel revenues showed a decline of 40 percent through the end of November – less than the state average reduction of 53 percent – this can be attributed to displaced CZU August Fire victims and first responders. Year-end figures show a marked decrease from previous years due to the pandemic, as was expected.

Year-end average occupancy for Santa Cruz County ended at 49.3 percent.  Occupancy showed a near 20 percent decline in 2020 overall from the year-end average in 2019 and the lowest annual average over at least the last five years.  Locally, ADR ended at $138, down from an end-of-year average of $166 in 2019, with revenue losses factoring in both occupancy and rates being lower as a result. Destination Analysts’ “Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report” shows that consumers’ receptiveness to travel inspiration, however, is at a pandemic high. Recovery efforts for the lodging industry will be based on factors such as state and local stay-at-home orders, vaccine distribution, and visitor sentiment, all of which will help to inform marketing and promotional efforts moving forward.

State and Local COVID-19 Briefing

Locally, there are 2,810 active cases of coronavirus in Santa Cruz County. It was reported that the most likely form of local transmission remains through household person-to-person exposure, which is a trend that has continued since the start of the pandemic. Santa Cruz County remains in the purple tier, and a regional stay at home order and a supplemental order are still in place for Californians. The county’s seven-day positivity rate is at 10.3 percent, while the statewide positivity rate is at 15.2 percent. A watchful eye is being kept on ICU bed capacity, and currently, the county and state have the same ICU availability percentage of zero.  Once the ICU bed capacity meets or exceeds 15 percent and is maintained for three weeks, these orders will be lifted and assessed on a weekly basis. A hospital surge order was updated by the California Department of Public Health on January 15th to address this issue. Lookout Local and Event Santa Cruz will host a free Q&A event about the current state of COVID in Santa Cruz County tonight at 6PM featuring County Health Officer Gail Newel, UC Santa Cruz infectious disease expert Marm Kilpatrick and Erica Padilla-Chavez, CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance who also is a member of the Pajaro Valley Save Lives team.  Here is how the pandemic is being addressed locally:

Testing facilities throughout the county – many of which are free – include two newly opened sites at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos. Vaccines are being distributed and a vaccine distribution plan has been released by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency. Until vaccines are widely available, the state and the federal government have prioritized vaccine distribution to frontline health care workers and vulnerable populations (see chart). Vaccines will come into the community through a variety of means, including direct allocations to local congregate living facilities, medical providers, health insurers, and the Public Health Division. More information about the vaccine is posted here.  

Supporting the stay-at-home order, VSCC is focusing its efforts on aspirational, “plan now, travel later” ideas for visitors through social media efforts. Poised to activate pre-season marketing plans as soon as it is safe to do so, VSCC is planning to focus on fresh air, outdoor activities, and emphasizing safety protocols for visitors. 

Reimagined 40th Annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off Announced!

The City of Santa Cruz has announced that one of the signature events for our area has been made COVID-safe. The 40th annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off

has been adjusted to ensure that safety protocols are not only in place, but it has also been designed to drive foot traffic to local restaurants – all in the name of the namesake soup that has been a Santa Cruz County staple for four decades. This enterprising idea will once again be hosted by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and will continue to draw chowder lovers to the beach area, but with some modifications in place to ensure the event is not “open” to the public so that people will not congregate. Here’s what is in store this year:

In 2021, there will be two ways for the public to sample chowder:

  1. Purchase tickets in advance and pick up a $12 Tasting Flight on Saturday, February 20th pre-loaded with six to 12 samples from restaurants at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s River Street Parking Lot.  Tasting flights will include instructions on how to vote online. 
  2. Between Monday, February 15th, and Sunday, February 21st, local Santa Cruz County restaurants who register for the event will have an opportunity to serve the public their special recipe chowder to-go-to compete for the title of Best Santa Cruz Clam Chowder. Those patrons who purchase a Passport for $10 will receive a list of participating restaurants and can then vote for their favorite online.  

The deadline for restaurants to enter is January 31st and registration is open to all Santa Cruz County restaurants. Winners will be announced on February 22nd. Click here for more information.  

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 January 19th 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.  

Safety Pledge Continues

Send us a snap of your staff and employees taking the Safety Pledge and VSCC will feature your business on our social media channels! VSCC’s Let’s Cruz Safely campaign reminds locals and visitors that practicing safe persona protocols is paramount to keeping our community healthy and restarting our Santa Cruz County economy. 

Clean + Safe Kudos!

Congratulations to the Hyatt Place Santa Cruz and the Capitola Hotel 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!  

Arrivals and Departures

Susan Papo has stepped down as executive director of the Diversity Center Santa Cruz County following a tenure of eight years. Her most recent accomplishment was the completion of a successful capital campaign in December, which allowed the Diversity Center to purchase the building which houses their offices at 1117 Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz. Susan and her team were instrumental in partnering with VSCC on an LBGTQ+ initiative, which was presented to the community in January 2020.

Did you know……

that the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a variety of virtual seminars in the coming weeks?  On Tuesday, January 26th from 10A – Noon an employment law workshop will cover AB2257 and the continuing developments regarding employee v. independent contractor classification, COVID-related legislation, including the Families First Coronavirus Protection Act, AB 685 and AB 2043, the California Family Rights Act, and SB 1383 changes in minimum wages, and more. And on Friday, February 5, a conversation with the county’s four mayors will be hosted from 1PM – 2:30PM. Hear what Yvette Brooks (City of Capitola), Jimmy Dutra (City of Watsonville), Donna Meyers (City of Santa Cruz), and Derek Timm (City of Scotts Valley) have to say about key issues facing our region. 

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