The Travel Forecast

March 12, 2020

Corona Virus Update

Growing concerns in the travel industry about the outbreak of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) have reached peak levels, with Santa Clara County, San Francisco, and San Diego issuing emergency orders.  Although more cases are being reported around the country, the focus remains on Washington state and Northern California, where health officials say the virus has spread through community contact. Officials are continuing to search for people who came in contact with the original patients to isolate them and get them tested.  In California, Alameda County, Solano County, and Santa Clara County have confirmed cases; 40 cases in total have been reported in the state with others confirmed in Washington state; a new case was reported on Friday in Oregon.  The ITB Travel Trade Show – scheduled to take place in Berlin March 10 – 14, and which VSCC staff planned to attend – was cancelled due to spread of the Corona Virus.  However, Visit California reports that the World Health Organization officially stated last Wednesday that COVID-19 peaked in China between January 23 and February 2nd and there are signs the market is opening up.  Locally, a small number of business group events have been postponed.  That being said, VSCC will be maintaining ongoing communication with hotels and major attractions.  As the local tourism industry heads into the spring break shoulder season, VSCC is moving ahead as planned, with the largest outreach campaign of the year to keep Santa Cruz County top of mind for spring and summer travel plans including broadcast and digital promotions, and social media efforts. If you have information to share regarding the Corona Virus, email VSCC. Here is what else you need to know:

With regard to COVID-19, there are no restrictions on travel anywhere in the U.S. including California. The California Department of Public Health says the risk in California remains low.  Regular updates from the CDPH are available online. The CDC continues to reiterate that the virus is not widespread in the U.S. and the risk to the general American public remains low.

The U.S. Travel Association continues to encourage the travel industry to work together to promote a calm, facts-driven approach to this outbreak and released a joint industry statement from a coalition of 150 travel-related organizations to the media emphasizing the importance of facts over fear.

Even with official reassurances being issued, it is clear that caution and risk aversion on the part of consumers planning travel is having major impacts on the tourism economy, including Santa Cruz County’s local tourism industry.

Although there are not any figures on losses so far, Visit Santa Cruz County (VSCC) continues to receive tourism industry reports indicating losses in business, primarily due to postponement and cancellation of groups (meeting and leisure). Lodging reservations related to leisure travel have slowed and international visitation is expected to drop off significantly for the next few months.  Discussions are in process concerning strategies to address and make plans to try to recapture economic losses when appropriate.

UCSC has postponed Alumni Weekend and VSCC has been alerted that a number of special events are also postponing or cancelling, among them Santa Cruz Veg Fest, the Watsonville Film Festival, She is Beautiful (annual 5k/10k) and book readings at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

This week the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors has declared a local emergency.

For additional information and resources for Santa Cruz County and to stay up to date on the latest information you are encouraged to visit Residents are being encouraged to practice social distancing and to not attend events with more than 50 individuals in attendance.

Regionally, San Francisco Travel has reported 10 citywide group cancellations from March to May, representing a loss of over $178 million in visitor spending.  The City of Monterey has asked cruise ships – which collectively contribute an estimated $1.5 to $1.8 million to the local economy each year – to cancel planned stops in the Monterey Bay for the foreseeable future.  The Monterey Conference Center saw its first major cancellation last Friday when the International Council of Shopping Centers called off its event scheduled for this week which generates over $700,000 in spending. And last Friday the Sea Otter Classic announced it rescheduled its April event at Laguna Seca to October. The bicycle festival draws more than 72,000 people and generates between $35 and $40 million in economic impact.

The National Restaurant Association has issued a flyer for the industry which outlines the details of the virus and provides preventative measures for employees of the restaurant industry.


Visit Santa Cruz County continues to monitor the situation and will share relevant information with the local hospitality industry as it becomes available.

If you have information to share regarding the coronavirus and the impact it has had on your business, email VSCC.

US Travel Association Announces 10-Year Plan

Roger Dow, President of the US Travel Association (USTA), announced that the organization will embark on an ambitious 10-year plan.

Although projections remain for a “bright future” for the travel industry in the U.S., despite challenges presented by public health emergencies and trade tensions. He cited a projected 1.4 percent growth in domestic travel, with the leisure market being the fastest growing segment, and a modest increase of 2 percent for inbound travel from other countries.  Roger identified four areas of growth potential that the USTA will focus on over the next decade:

  • Promoting travel through trade by elevating travel’s role as a vital U.S. export, and ensuring that travel has a seat at the table for crucial trade negotiations with Japan, the U.K., the EU and China.
  • Enhancing security by leveraging the industry’s already-strong leadership to create a seamless travel experience by deploying biometric innovation, improving the REAL ID Act through policy changes, alleviating security chokepoints and expanding successful trusted traveler programs.
  • Spurring pro-travel commerce through the promotion of responsible economic incentives, pursuing travel-friendly improvements to the U.S. tax code, pushing for long-overdue investments in infrastructure and our national parks, and accelerating new advances in the future of travel mobility.
  • Promoting a sustainable travel industry through innovative solutions – citing Visit California’s statewide Destination Stewardship plan that outlines principles and sustainability opportunities and practices for industry partners.

USTA also plans to advocate for a mix of policy and trade measures, including traveler-friendly alterations to the U.S. tax code, economic incentives, and investment in infrastructure, mobility, biometric innovations, and the overall experience of moving through security checkpoints.

Get Involved in VSCC’s Conference and Wedding Programs!

For those businesses wanting to target the meetings, conference, events, and weddings markets, VSCC’s Digital Partnership Program provides the maximum exposure including a landing page on featuring your company description, photography, and a direct link to your website.  Other benefits include a comprehensive meetings destination guide, promotional videos, and curated collateral materials allowing Visit Santa Cruz County’s brand message, and your business, to get in front of targeted conference, meeting and event planners.  Wedding services or venue-related businesses also receive a customizable landing page, and are included in the official VSCC Wedding Planning Kit mailed to people who request it, and available at our main visitor center on Water Street in Santa Cruz, as well as valuable referrals to planners seeking a wedding venue or service information in Santa Cruz County. For more information about either of these programs, contact Gary Green, Cooperative Marketing Director.

COVID-19: Helpful Information for Hotels and Restaurants

VSCC has developed a downloadable Healthy Hospitality Practices flyer in English and Spanish for lodging properties as a reminder for staff to follow healthy guidelines. The National Restaurant Association has issued a flyer for the industry which outlines the details of the virus and provides preventative measures for employees.

Reminder: VSCC Offers Free Exposure for Local Event Promoters

Are you an event promoter needing to get the word out about a local event you are planning in Santa Cruz County?  Submit your event for free and reach over 1 million visitors a year on  You’ll also receive the support of VSCC social media outreach as well as the chance to appear on our Top 5 weekly event list, with distribution countywide. Should you choose to cancel or postpone your event to a later date, we ask that you notify us via email as soon as possible.   

Shadowbrook Restaurant Attends Public Policy Conference Ted Burke and Sean Fyock from Shadowbrook Restaurant attended the National Restaurant Association’s Public Policy Conference in Washington D.C. earlier this month.  The conference was an opportunity for attendees – representing over 40 state restaurant associations – to meet with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill, educating them about top public policy issues impacting the restaurant industry. Click here to see Ted and Sean with some of the members of the conference!

Partner News!

Chef Shannon Madison of Bistro One Twelve, is VSCC’s newest partner!   This sweet spot at the Tannery Arts Center serves up local coffee, baguette sandwiches with a French flair, fresh salads, and other combinations influenced by California’s cultural diversity, Mediterranean climate, and seasonal fruits and vegetables.  In other VSCC partners news, click here for a behind-the-scenes tour of Sean Venus’ new expansion to include a restaurant/tasting room/distillery on Santa Cruz’s Westside, coming soon!Congratulations to Toni Castro, who is retiring from her position as executive director with the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce.  Prior to her position as executive director, Toni served as chamber board president.

Did you know…

that theSanta Cruz Small Business Development Center offers free informational videos which showcase the knowledge of their local team of small business experts and business owners they work with? Topics include Creating Foot Traffic to Protecting Your Intellectual Property is covered, and more.  Check them out!

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