Within the first few minutes of the opening webisode examining “The Economic Future of the Coachella Valley,” Scott White reveals the forecasted hit the local tourism industry will absorb in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
• $3.1 billion loss to the local economy.
• 22,000 industry-related jobs are going to be gone.
Those numbers lead the president and CEO of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to predict that while the national forecast is for the tourism industry to recover in late 2023 into 2024, the Coachella Valley could be facing a “recovery much longer than that.”
White’s comments came during the debut of a nine-part web series by Palm Springs Life, which has partnered with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP) and the law firm Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney to produce the webinars, which are sponsored by Timo’s Air Conditioning & Heating.
The series features leaders from a cross-section of the region’s most critical industries. Webisode 2 looks at health, medicine, and wellness at 2 p.m. Sept. 30 with a discussion moderated by Joe Wallace, CEO and chief innovation officer of CVEP, and guest speakers Ken Wheat, Eisenhower Health; Jenna LeComte-Hinely, HARC, Inc., and Kim Samuwatari, Riverside University Health System- Public Health.
• REGISTER: To register to view Webisode 2 on Health, Medicine, and Wellness at 2 p.m. Sept. 30, visit palmspringslife.com.
Another equally sobering statistic from White in the opening webisode was the loss of group business, which constitutes 60 percent of tourism business. This losses are already spilling into the first and second quarters of 2021, White says. When and how that business returns is part of the uncertainty that hangs like a dark cloud over the pandemic.
“If we don’t get clear direction when we’ll be able to open back up for group business, even if it’s on a small scale, it’s going to be devastating for our economy and for our industry not only for the rest of 2020, but well into 2021,” White says.
Joining White in the webisode were Kelly Steward, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, and Allen Monroe, president/CEO of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
The absence of group business is also greatly impacting the hospitality industry locally, Steward says. The Ritz-Carlton, which recently reopened, has focused on providing the safest stay as possible from the moment guests arrive at the resort. “At the end of the day, we all want to ensure our guests are pampered in a Ritz-Carlton way, in a new safe way of doing business,” she says.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens reopened in July with pandemic restrictions on the number of people allowed in the park at one time. Monroe noted attendance during the hot summer months is normally the venue’s slowest time of the year, but since reopening attendance has been running at 95 percent of where The Living Desert was a year ago.
“That exceeds our hopes when we started this budget planning process for what we’re able to accomplish,” Monroe says. “The real question in my mind us what does the future of tourism look like in the valley, especially this fall and will tourists come back? We’re really not out of there woods yet, and we’re kind of anticipating it will take at least a year until things start to get back to normal for us.”
VIDEO: View the full discussion in Webisode One of “The Economic Future of the Coachella Valley”.