The local tourism industry is being decimated by Covid-19. Courtesy photo.

The local tourism industry has been decimated by Covid-19, and while travel is predicted to increase in 2021, visitors are not projected to reach 2019 levels until 2024, according to the LA Tourism and Convention Board.

In Santa Monica, tourism slowed in February, tanked in April, and began a modest recovery during late summer due to an increase in staycationers and drive market visitors. Even with this uptick, year-end occupancy is expected to be down by 48 percent compared to 2019.

The effects on Santa Monica’s economy are severe. In 2019, tourists spent $1.89 billion, and supported 12,010 jobs. This year, Santa Monica Travel and Tourism estimates that around 50 percent of local hospitality workers have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.

“According to a forecast of Santa Monica hotel performance compiled by Lauren Schlau Consulting, we expect 2020 to end with $149 million of total room revenue, off by $244 million or 62% below 2019 performance,” said SMTT President, Misti Kern.

SMTT, the non-profit agency promoting local tourism, has not been spared in this economic fallout.

“We have had budgets reduced, no access to PPP loans and have been forced to lay-off over 60% of our team members,” said Kern. “However, our role at SMTT is more important now than ever as we collectively work with the City Santa Monica’s Economic Recovery Task Force, citywide partners and business leadership in Santa Monica to strengthen our local economy and employment.”

This summer SMTT launched a robust marketing and social media push to attract domestic and local visitors. International tourism, which formerly comprised 50 percent of visitors and 60 percent of visitor spending, is almost entirely absent.

In Aug. and Oct. alone, online users exposed to SMTT campaigns booked 6,200 nights of local hotel rooms on Expedia. These efforts will continue in 2021, when tourism is predicted to continue growing modestly in the first half of the year with the most significant growth forecasted for Q4.

Visitor numbers in LA fell from 50.7 million in 2019 to 28.3 million in 2020, and are expected to rebound to 39.3 in 2021, according to the LA Tourism and Convention Board. Full recovery to pre-pandemic visitor levels is not predicted until 2024.

“As a slow recovery begins to build back and momentum towards worldwide tourism rebounds, we are diligent in our efforts to sustain destination marketing along with a heavy emphasis on safety and cleanliness to protect the quality of life for residents and the quality of experiences for visitors,” said Kerns.

SMTT currently highlights the health and safety measures local businesses are taking through its Santa Monica Shines Assurance Program. Additionally, SMTT’s Extra Bedroom Program offers Santa Monica residents discounted rates at 26 local hotels through Feb. 15, 2021.

“We must all work together to prioritize making Santa Monica a clean, safe and economically sound community once again,” said Kerns. “By staying local and supporting our restaurants and retail experiences, residents can enjoy a change of scenery with a staycation close to home. Residents can also support their favorite neighborhood business by purchasing holiday gift cards for loved ones to travel at a later date.”