California’s Tourism Economy on the Rise

Industry surpasses pre-recession economic and job levels:

Travelers in California spend $110 billion in 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--()--A new report released by Visit California shows the growing economic impact and overall value of the state’s travel and tourism industry. Over 235 million people traveled in California in 2013. Those travelers spent $109.6 billion in the state, an all-time high in both actual and inflation-adjusted dollars. That spending generated $2.8 billion in local tax revenues and $4.3 billion in state tax revenues. California’s travel industry employed 965,800 people, the highest number recorded since 1992 when employment data started being tallied.

“California tourism is on the rise, and that means new potential for creating jobs and increasing economic impact throughout the state,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “When visitors from around the world choose to visit California, the benefits of our $110 billion industry are felt across numerous segments and ultimately help sustain our local communities.”

The Dean Runyan Associates report commissioned by Visit California details the economic impacts of travel to and through California from 1992 to 2013. The report includes both statewide and county-by-county information, as well as the trends and impacts among all segments of the travel industry, including hotels, rental cars and retail.

The more than $7 billion in state and local tax revenue generated by direct travel spending in California is equivalent to $550 of tax revenue for each household in the state. Local tax revenue increased 6.4 percent from 2012, driven by increased hotel room demand. In 2012, most counties had gains in local tax revenue compared to their returns in 2011. For instance, visitor spending generated increases for many California counties, including:

  • Los Angeles County: $602 million in local tax revenue (up from $563 million)
  • San Diego County: $294 million (up from $277 million)
  • Orange County: $241 million (up from $224 million)
  • San Francisco County: $429 million (up from $387 million)
  • Alameda County: $89 million (up from $81 million)
  • Sacramento County: $54 million (up from $52 million)
  • Mariposa County: $13.3 million (up from $12.5 million)

The preliminary data for 2013 show further increases in local tax revenue in counties throughout the state.

“These findings show the billions of dollars that visitors inject into our economy every year continues to grow; however, that growth will depend on California remaining a top-of-mind travel destination,” said Beteta. “In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, California must continue to compete with other travel destinations.”

California, which has the nation’s largest tourism economy, spends $50 million marketing itself to potential travelers. Many competing destinations spend much more. For example, Las Vegas spent $285 million on tourism marketing in 2013, and several states spend more than California – including Hawaii, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Visit California proactively markets to potential travelers in the United States and the state’s top 12 international markets by volume, which account for 92 percent of all international visitation to the state (15.3 million people in 2013). Visit California’s 2013 advertising in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia generated more than 4.2 million trips and $7.8 billion in spending, returning $355 to the state for every $1 spent on marketing. In April 2014, Visit California launched broadcast advertising for the first time in both Mexico and China, with localized creative of the new “Dream Big” brand platform.

“The California experience and culture is unmatched – it’s a special place where dreams become reality. Marketing that California dream is essential to ensure the tourism industry can provide new jobs and benefit the state and local regions’ bottom line,” said Beteta.

Access the Dean Runyan Association’s report “California Travel Impacts by County, 1992-2012, 2013 Preliminary State & Regional Estimates,” and see a breakdown of all the numbers by county, region and industry segment.

Visit California (formerly known as the California Travel & Tourism Commission) is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs - in partnership with the state's travel industry - that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, travel and tourism expenditures totaled $109.6 billion in 2013 in California, supporting jobs for 965,800 Californians and generating $7.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. California travel and tourism-related businesses assess themselves to fund a $50 million annual budget for innovative marketing campaigns that promote California to travelers around the world. For more information on Visit California, go to and follow @CTTCNews.


Visit California
Brian Wright, 916-319-5421
Andy Nevis, 916-492-2707

Release Summary

The California tourism industry has surpassed pre-recession economic and job levels. Travelers to California spent $110 billion in 2013.


Visit California
Brian Wright, 916-319-5421
Andy Nevis, 916-492-2707