How the resumption of global travel could revive tourism in California’s wine country


A return of international visitors – a $ 28 billion pre-pandemic deal – could get a boost following the Biden government’s decision to lift air travel restrictions.

“This news is really changing the game for California’s economic recovery,” said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California, in a statement following the September 20 federal government announcement. She also stated that international tourism is California’s largest export.

Tim Zahner, Executive Director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, also applauded the news, but pointed out that the “calculus works both ways,” at least in Wine Country.

“We were happy to see people from California who couldn’t go to Tuscany or who postponed their European trip,” said Zahner. “While it definitely opens us up to a new market for international inbound travel, you could also lose some people who can actually travel to Europe.”

International travel and tourism are powerful drivers of the nation’s economic well-being, as noted by the US Travel Association, whose mission is to increase travel to and from the United States. Before September 20, the country is slated to lose $ 175 billion in export revenue from international visitors this year, according to the organization.

“This is a major turning point in dealing with the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, in September. 20 statement.

The upcoming eased restrictions imposed by the Biden administration will also open the door for foreign nationals with work permits to return to their jobs in America, while tightening other restrictions.

Fully vaccinated travelers must also have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of the flight, and unvaccinated Americans traveling from abroad must be tested again within one day before returning to the states and again after they return home . The new restrictions have no impact on border policy with the two North American neighbors Mexico and Canada.

Prior to the announcement that international air travel would resume in November – an exact date has not yet been announced – the industry, including Visit California, had forecast that tourism revenue was unlikely to reach fully pre-pandemic levels by 2024, which was largely attributed to a lack of international travelers.

Now is it realistic to believe that full economic recovery will occur within the next three years?

“If all goes well, I think that by the end of next year we should have a really good grasp of how the economic side of the tourism crisis is going to play out,” said David Bratton, founder and chief executive officer of Destination Analysts, an in San Francisco-based travel research company tracking the industry nationwide. He said there are many “ifs” remaining, including the possibility that more COVID-19 variants may emerge.

“Before the coronavirus pandemic, international travel was the big economic driver behind the industry,” said Bratton. “People who came here from abroad spent a lot more than domestic travelers.”

In particular, there is one country that the travel industry would like to see back in America.

“China is like the golden child of tourism,” said Bratton. “You have such a strong interest in America and you spend a lot of money here.”

And that includes California, which Bratton said is one of the most attractive destinations for international travelers.

“California will benefit greatly – probably more than most destinations – from reopening and re-entering because we are such a strong brand,” he said.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, healthcare, and education. She previously worked for a gannett newspaper in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state business magazine. Cheryl has worked for business magazines in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University at Northridge. You can reach them at [email protected] or 707-521-4259.


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