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Commentary: Stand up for summer — Tourism’s critical role in the economic recovery

By W. Erik Bruvold

The safe resumption of leisure tourism in North County, particularly during the coming summer months, is critical to the economic health of our region.

While the Governor’s announcement that hotels can open is welcome, we also need to get our theme parks and attractions open and operating. 

Working together and following state guidance, our region has flattened the curve.

North County residents have and continue to heed state and county mandates.  Our tourism industry has been working diligently to adopt safety protocols and hotels are proceeding with a responsible reopening.

North County, the economic region that I represent, has more than 18,000 residents who are employed directly by tourism.

A depressingly large percentage of these employees have been furloughed and, today, are unable to support their families.

Reopening is essential to easing their hardship and getting us all on the road to recovery. I’m pleased we’ve taken a first step in that direction. It’s vital.

Collectively, our North County governments receive more than $80 million dollars each year from Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) paid by overnight visitors and sales tax paid by visitors who patronize our numerous restaurants, attractions and merchants.

We depend on this tax revenue to help fund essential services, things like parks, public safety, infrastructure and beautification.

These are services that the people of our communities rely on and that make North County such a desirable place to live, work and play.

North County, specifically, is a seasonal leisure destination.

A significant share of the tourism industry’s tax revenue is collected during the months of June, July and August when families have time to travel and the weather is ideal for enjoying our outdoor recreational opportunities and expansive coastline.

According to Visit California, California’s destination management organization, without in-state options, Californian’s are increasingly escaping to neighboring states, such as Arizona and Nevada, that have relaxed restrictions for leisure travel.

These are dollars that could be spent supporting our North County recovery.

Now is not the time for a one-size fits all approach to reopening our travel industry.

It’s time North County is allowed to determine its reopening timeline. It’s time we Stand Up for Summer.

W. Erik Bruvold is Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego North Economic Development Council.