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Searches to California Surge as US Reopens International Travel

Popular California
Written by Linda S. Hohnholz

California’s No. 1 export is international travel, and it is poised to roar back after the U.S. announced a timeline to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors. The announcement has ignited a surge in travel searches and bookings, foreshadowing brighter days ahead for the state’s travel and tourism industry.

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  1. The White House announced September 20 that vaccinated international visitors can fly into the U.S. as soon as November.
  2. Travelers immediately began looking to book trips inundating European airlines and travel booking sites.
  3. British Airways reported a 700% increase in searches for trips to Los Angeles, and Skyscanner saw a 54% increase in visits from consumers looking to visit the United States.

Expedia Group Media Solutions reported a surge in interest in San Francisco trips, more than doubling search traffic within a day of the border-opening announcement.

“California is ready to welcome back our friends from around the world, and our cities are rolling out the red carpet for so many new only-in-California experiences to discover,” Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta said. “There’s so much pent-up demand for the California lifestyle, and we expect to see this business roar back.”

International travelers are among California’s most lucrative guests: They stay longer and spend more, and they travel midweek and in off-peak seasons. In 2019, international visitors spent $28 billion in California, providing livelihoods for California workers and vital tax revenue to communities across the state.

California is the No. 1 destination in the United States, and international travelers are vitally important to the state, especially in the large gateway cities:


In Los Angeles, international visitors accounted for 56% of all tourism spending before the pandemic.

“The announcement that international visitors will once again be able to visit the United States in November is a major step forward in Los Angeles’ comeback story,” Los Angeles Tourism President & CEO Adam Burke said. “International visitors represent one of L.A.’s most important market segments – in 2019 alone, we welcomed a record 7.4 million guests from around the globe. Not only do international visitors have a significant economic impact, they also contribute to our vibrant and diverse culture and we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome these travelers back to our City of Angels.”


In 2019, international visitors accounted for 12% of all tourism spending in Anaheim and 33% of all tourism spending in Orange County.

“With Orange County welcoming 4.6 million international visitors in 2019, it underscores the economic power of international travel and the role it will play in Anaheim’s economic recovery,” said Junior Tauvaa, Chief Sales Officer, Visit Anaheim. “Home to world-class theme parks and shopping, Anaheim and Orange County will continue to be a strong draw for international visitors.”


In Greater Palm Springs, international visitors accounted for nearly 10% of all tourism spending before the pandemic, or more than one-half billion dollars in 2019.

“We are ready and excited to safely welcome back international visitors,” said Visit Greater Palm Springs President & CEO Scott White. “With the return of our signature events —from modernism week, music and film festivals to sporting events like the BNP Paribas Open, and the many recently renovated hotels and resorts, it’s never been a better time to visit Greater Palm Springs.”


In San Diego, international visitors accounted for 24% of all tourism spending before the pandemic.

“We know how important international travel is to the overall health of the San Diego tourism economy, and we also know international travelers are clamoring come back to San Diego,” San Diego Tourism Authority President & CEO Julie Coker said. “In fact, British Airways recently announced it is resuming its year-round non-stop service between Heathrow Airport in London and San Diego International Airport because of pent-up demand. While we still have a long way to go to get back to our pre-pandemic numbers, international air passengers numbers continue to climb and were up more than 140% in August from the previous year.”


In San Francisco, international visitors accounted for 62% of all tourism spending before the pandemic.

“The surge of interest reported by our travel partners in the U.K., Germany, France and India following the White House announcement is a welcome, positive sign for the upcoming winter season,” said Joe D’Alessandro, San Francisco Travel Association’s president and CEO. “People are excited to visit and experience our beautiful city’s incredible culinary, cultural and events scene, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”

San Francisco’s iconic experiences and welcoming diversity await visitors, as well as new attractions, hotels and restaurants that have opened in the last 18 months. The city’s dining scene has been transformed by an uptrend of alfresco options now that “parklets” have become permanent.

A packed schedule of events and shows include “Illuminate SF,” the annual months-long art light festival; “Dear San Francisco,” a new acrobatic ode to San Francisco at Club Fugazi, the former venue of the legendary “Beach Blanket Babylon,” and “BratPack,” a live-concert theatrical experience celebrating the hit movies of the ‘80s presented by Feinstein’s at The Nikko.

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About the author

Linda S. Hohnholz

Linda Hohnholz has been the editor in chief for eTurboNews for many years.
She loves to write and pays attention to details.
She is also in charge of all premium content and press releases.

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