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Tourism powers communities across the state
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Posting record gains over the past decade, the tourism industry remains a foundational force driving California forward – a muscular pillar of the world’s fifth largest economy. From the biggest international gateway cities to rural towns throughout the state, the impact of travel spending on local economies cannot be understated. In 2022, California tourism bounced back from the devastating human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, setting new records for visitor spending and tax generation.

Propelling California

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the Golden State tourism industry has generated steady economic growth every year for the past decade. The industry reached new heights in 2019, when tourism contributed over $144 billion in travel spending, $12.2 billion in tax revenue, and supported over 1.2 million jobs.  

The coronavirus pandemic ended California’s decade of travel-related growth in 2020, but the industry has bounced back and revived its economic contributions beyond 2019 levels.

Source: Dean Runyan Associates

In-state Spending, 2023
Jobs, 2023
State and Local Tax Revenue, 2023

Funding Essential Public Services

In addition to the revenue generated for tourism businesses and destinations, the travel industry is one of the biggest drivers of state and local tax revenues that fund essential public services.

These services – which include public safety, infrastructure, development, local libraries and more – benefit all Californians. Without the revenue generated by visitor spending, each California household would have had to pay an additional $920 in taxes in 2019.

taxes drive tourism forward

California’s Top Export

International markets accounted for nearly $1 of every $5 of visitor spending in the state before the pandemic. Tourism was historically California’s biggest export. 

As global travel ramps back up, international travelers are returning to California in greater numbers, though the $17 billion they spent in 2022 is still just 60% of the pre-pandemic peak of $28 billion. The 2019 level of international visitor spending is unlikely to return until 2025. California’s travel industry cannot be made whole until international travel fully rebounds. 


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