Lay of the Land

Tourism and Hospitality Fuel the Desert’s Economy

So, you’ve decided to make Greater Palm Springs your home for success.

Marissa Willman Attractions, Progress, Vision

Lay of the Land

Mountain view of the Coachella Valley.

Welcome to Greater Palm Springs, a region where ambition meets opportunity, and where innovation finds fertile ground to flourish. It’s not hard to see why our desert communities are on the minds of everyone from Disney and Southwest Airlines to Barbie and the NHL. Enviable weather and picture-perfect backdrops are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what truly makes our dreamy desert an economic powerhouse and an attractive place to be in business.

The Industries Powering the Economy

As a popular vacation destination, Greater Palm Springs counts tourism among its major economic drivers. The tourism and hospitality industry generated a record-breaking $8.7 billion in total economic impact to the region in 2022, supporting about one in four jobs, as a once-seasonal tourism market now flourishes year-round.

In addition to tourism, agriculture thrives in one of the largest crop-growing regions in the state. Citrus, grapes, bell peppers, and dates are some of the most abundant local crops in an industry that produced about $600 million worth of crop value in 2019. Restaurants and shops across the region serve local citrus and date shakes. (The Coachella Valley produces more than 90 percent of the country’s date supply.)

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Organic crops growing in Indio.

Vacationers and farmers love the year-round warm, dry climate in Greater Palm Springs. The endlessly sunny days, palm trees, and mountain backdrops lured many visitors to invest in real estate as a primary residence, winter home, or vacation rental. Real estate is another economic force in the region, recently hitting record-high prices for homes and seeing record-low inventory during the pandemic years.

While tourism, agriculture, and real estate represent the largest industries, the region is ripe for new and expanding business. Organizations like Coachella Valley Economic Partnership support business development through its iHub incubator and accelerator as chambers of commerce offer networking opportunities.

“For example, our hoteliers all meet and talk to each other,” says business owner and Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Bernstein. “If you ask any hotelier, they’ll tell you that’s unusual. Our restaurants and retailers all work together, too. As a business owner, I’ve been helped by other people offering advice or connections, and that leads me to want to help someone else. One connection fosters another.”

The community sets the Greater Palm Springs business landscape apart.

Armando’s Bar

Scott White CEO of Visit Greater Palm Springs.

Scott White, CEO of Visit Greater Palm Springs, works on a number of initiatives to increase visitation and stimulate economic impact, ranging from expanding air service and educational opportunities to developing destination events.

“What I’ve found is that everybody wants to help each other succeed,” White says. “When businesses come into this destination, whether they’re working with a city, the county, local nonprofits, or other business owners, there is a very welcoming, engaged community here that wants to do everything they possibly can to help that entrepreneur or that business be successful here.”

Additionally, White adds, resources are accessible — even to small businesses — in a way not seen in other places.

“You have a direct line of connectivity to the mayor of the city and to business leaders, whereas in bigger markets, it’s much more difficult to have that type of access, especially for smaller businesses,” White says. “Here, you’re going to feel like you’re part of a village, part of a family, part of a community that cares about your success. I think that’s the biggest difference here.”

Local leaders also maintain a forward-looking mindset, actively seeking for new ways to continue supporting economic development and growth in the region.

In Palm Springs, for example, “We’re reviving a business retention and economic development subcommittee [in the city of Palm Springs],” Bernstein says. “We’re also looking at ways to help our arts and culture businesses work together and expanding our economic development department to attract new businesses.”

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Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs bespeaks the fresh energy powering downtown.

A Variety of Appealing Communities

Work is one piece of the puzzle. Life is another. The cities of Greater Palm Springs each have their own character, and the communities appeal to a variety of lifestyles.

Palm Springs leans into its Old Hollywood roots and midcentury modernism and is home to blockbuster events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Modernism Week as well as its charming weekly VillageFest street fair.

The neighboring bedroom community of Cathedral City promotes its arts and culture scene and more affordable homes. Rancho Mirage is known for its country clubs, resorts, and luxury automobile dealerships. It is also known as the “playground of presidents” for all the U.S. presidents who’ve visited Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s iconic Sunnylands estate and even owned homes here. Palm Desert is the retail heart of the region, with the El Paseo Shopping District and The Shops at Palm Desert, as well as serving as the hub for higher education, with the main campus of College of the Desert as well as satellite campuses of California State University, San Bernardino and University of California, Riverside.

Like Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells was one of the first cities in the area to embrace the country club lifestyle, while also offering world-class sports at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and an enviable lineup of resort and spa experiences.

In La Quinta, residents choose between country club living or more family-focused communities, with a robust events calendar for all ages.

Armando’s Bar

Sunnylands Center and Gardens.

On the east end of the valley lies Indio, the heart of the region’s history, culture, and agriculture. Aptly nicknamed the City of Festivals, it’s the home to the world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as cultural gems like the Riverside County Fair and International Tamale Festival. The oldest city in the region is also home to some of the best Mexican food in Greater Palm Springs. Neighboring Coachella celebrates its heritage through events and murals found throughout the city. A robust revitalization effort, including a new park and library, has stimulated growth in the historic downtown, making this an up-and-coming destination in its own right.

Quality of Life Starts with Health and Education

In addition to the businesses and communities that make the desert tick, it’s the quality of life that continues to attract new residents and their businesses.

Quality of life begins with our good health. Tenet Healthcare operates two hospitals under the Desert Care Network banner: JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio offers 145 beds, emergency care, and a level 4 trauma center in the East Valley, and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs serves as the desert’s level 1 trauma center. Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree also belongs to the network. Meanwhile, Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage was recently ranked the top hospital in the Inland Empire and 12th in the state by U.S. News & World Report and as one of Forbes America’s Best Employers in 2022. Both Eisenhower and Desert Care Network offer satellite primary, urgent, and specialty care centers across the valley.

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A rendering of the proposed expansion of College of the Desert in Palm Springs.


Palm Springs International Airport.

Palm Springs–based DAP Health recently acquired Borrego Health, expanding community access to primary and dental care and behavioral health and social services.

The expansion of educational opportunities also ranks high among the desert’s priorities. Our community college, College of the Desert, is expanding on both ends of the valley, and CSU San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus has a plan to grow and become Cal State Palm Desert. UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Center offers a graduate program in creative writing and writing for the performing arts as well as certificate programs and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. 

An airport with a robust flight schedule also factors into our quality of life. Palm Springs International connects the desert communities to more than 30 nonstop destinations across the United States and Canada, with new routes added with increasing frequency.

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Date farm in Coachella.

“Having more access to the East Coast, such as Washington, D.C.; New York; Atlanta; or Chicago, has been a focus for us [at Visit Greater Palm Springs],” White says, adding that renovations, upgrades, and a new master plan are also underway at the airport. “If somebody is going to want to work and live here, either full-time or part-time, they need access to good air service.”

So, now you have an overview of the desert — the industries powering the economy, the communities welcoming people of all walks, and the health and educational institutions we count on to grow and thrive. It’s an exciting time to live and work in the desert and contribute to its enduring appeal and success.