Gordon Webster, Jr.

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BLOG: Tourism could help state budget crisis

According to the California Chamber of Commerce, the state is nowhere near leveraging what we already have.

Most of us know that the entertainment industry, based right here in California, is a major driver of economic prosperity. But what many don’t know is that the travel and tourism industry is as powerful an engine of economic growth.

Every day, guests wake up in more than 490,000 hotel rooms from Eureka to San Diego. Waiters pour coffee and bellboys deliver room service. Chefs scramble eggs, busboys clear dishes and kitchen staff prep for brunch.

Tour buses meet guests for sightseeing at our world famous attractions from Yosemite Valley to Muir Woods, Carmel by the Sea, Hearst Castle, Universal Studios, Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo, just to name a few.

Business people file into exhibition halls, conference centers and meeting rooms. And taxi drivers in every city shuttle their fares to the airport.

Thousands of business travelers and happy tourists are departing, taking with them stories, memories and a new or rekindled love for our wonderful state.

Tourism is major big business and it's great business for California. The travel industry employs more than 814,000 people and generates $102 billion in state revenue this last year.

Did you know that 49 percent of visitors from China who came to the U.S. voted California their top destination? And according to the California Travel and Tourism Commission, the average amount spent by Chinese travelers to the U.S. was $6,800 per person.

By modernizing and streamlining the visa process on our end and their end, we can significantly increase tourism from China. Chinese travelers seeking travel visas are now numbered at 65 million. If we triple the number of visitors to the state they already love, we can add to California’s prosperity and help raise revenue for our state.

Every new dollar introduced into the tourist economy can circulate anywhere from three to 10 times. These additional tourists from China could add $6 to $18 billion in taxable revenues to our state