Large event cancellations having big impact on tourism industry in SLO Co.

Posted at 5:53 PM, May 08, 2020

More and more events that draw in thousands of tourists to the Central Coast are being postponed until next year.

The fireworks that light up the night sky in Pismo Beach every Independence Day are a no-go this year.

"It is sad, it's heartbreaking, but if we've gone this far and we're making through and we're maintaining, hey, we'll be alright," said Angelina Esqueda, who watches the fireworks every year.

The City of Pismo Beach says it made the difficult decision to call off the annual tradition that dates back before World War II.

"We didn't find a feasible way, even under the best of circumstances, that the City could put on its firework show knowing the amount of people that generally come to see it," said Jorge Garcia, City of Pismo Beach management services director.

Around 100,000 visitors soak up the Pismo Beach sun, shop in the stores, and watch the fireworks show on the Fourth of July.

"We wouldn't want to rush out and be ready to celebrate and then hear, come to find out, maybe it wasn't a wise choice," Esqueda said.

The Cayucos fireworks show and parade is also not happening. It's still possible, however, that the popular sand sculpture contest will go on.

But one thing is certain: "Our county can't survive without tourism," said Chuck Davison, Visit SLO CAL President and CEO.

For the first time ever, travel spending reached $2 billion in San Luis Obispo County last year.

"Most of the travel spending comes during the summer time," Davison said.

He adds transient occupancy tax is relied on heavily by our cities.

"The cities get between 10 and 60 percent of their general funds from TOT depending on the municipality, so that creates a huge challenge long-term for these cities to be able to pay for police and fire and teachers," he adds.

The City of Pismo Beach says the Fourth of July typically brings in $1 million to the local economy.

"Summer in many cases provides about 40 percent of the revenue to most of the local businesses that they'll see in an entire year," Davison said.

Still, the tourism impact of COVID-19 reaches well beyond San Luis Obispo County, extending through our state.

"Travel spending is down around 89 percent from the same time last year," Davison said.

For now, people are adjusting to this different way of life.

"Lives have been impacted, changed forever, so you have to start new traditions," Esqueda said.

The fireworks show in Pismo Beach has a price tag of $40,000 to $50,000 but since it's not happening, the City says the money will stay in the general fund.

Oxford Economics estimates California will lose more than $72 billion in visitor spending this year alone.