SACRAMENTO, Calif. — International travel, California’s No. 1 export, is poised to roar back in California after the U.S. announced a timeline to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors. The announcement has ignited a surge in travel searches and bookings, foreshadowing brighter days ahead for the state’s travel and tourism industry.
California is the No. 1 destination in the United States, and international travelers are vitally important to the state. In 2019, international visitors accounted for 12% of all tourism spending in Anaheim and 33% of all tourism spending in Orange County.
“With Orange County welcoming 4.6 million international visitors in 2019, it underscores the economic power of international travel and the role it will play in Anaheim’s economic recovery,” said Junior Tauvaa, Chief Sales Officer at Visit Anaheim. “Home to world-class theme parks and shopping, Anaheim and Orange County will continue to be a strong draw for international visitors.”
The White House announced Sept. 20 that vaccinated international visitors can fly into the U.S. as soon as November.
After the announcement, travelers looking to book trips immediately inundated European airlines and travel booking sites. British Airways reported a 700% increase in searches for trips to Los Angeles, and Skyscanner saw a 54% increase in visits from consumers looking to visit the United States. Expedia Group reported a surge in interest to San Francisco, more than doubling search traffic within a day of the border-opening announcement.
“California is ready to welcome back our friends from around the world, and our iconic gateway cities are rolling out the red carpet for so many new only-in-California experiences to discover,” Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta said. “There’s so much pent-up demand for the California lifestyle, and we expect to see this business roar back.”
International travelers are among California’s most lucrative guests: They stay longer and spend more, and they travel midweek and in off-peak seasons. In 2019, international visitors spent $28 billion in California, providing livelihoods for California workers and vital tax revenue to communities across the state.
Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs — in partnership with the state’s travel industry — that keep California top of mind as a premier travel destination. In FY19/20, 20,000 business locations from five industry segments invested in the program — accommodations, attractions, restaurants and retail, transportation and travel services, and rental cars.