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California tourism guides have noted some significant damage to the state’s travel industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic to industry leaders Thursday morning.

They reported that approximately 518,000 recreational and hospitality workers lost their jobs and spending on tourists increased by $ 86 billion in 2020, “erasing a decade of growth,” said James Bermingham, chairman of the state’s Visit California Tourist office, in front of an industry forum about Zoom. In 2019, its sprawling industry, spanning venues from state parks to movie theaters, supported approximately 1.2 million jobs and generated $ 145 billion in visitor spending.

Bermingham also found that state and local tourism hotel and sales taxes fell from $ 12.2 billion in 2019 to $ 5.9 billion last year.

“This is a long-term threat,” said Bermingham. “As coronavirus continues to plague the industry, we don’t expect visitor spending to return to 2019 levels by 2024.”

The latest figures come from an economic analysis due to be released in May and paint a grim portrait of the massive impact the pandemic has had on California had been the country’s most robust tourism economy from 2009 to 2019.

In the past year, trips to the state have cratered, residents continue to grapple with the deadly virus, and the reports are flowing into an exodus of residents to other states and Bay Area counties. In the midst of these rapid changes, Visit California is facing the broader impact of negative publicity on the state’s reputation from wildfires in the countryside, the astronomical cost of living, and the relocation of technology companies to more tax-friendly states.

“Has California lost its luster? Does the world believe that it is? Said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California, during the digital forum on Thursday.

Last year, Beteta found that potential California tourists “leaked” – people who chose to travel to states with relaxed COVID-19 restrictions instead -. cost the state $ 2 billion in spending. “It was an economic dagger,” she said.

The office has urged Californians to help the state recover by traveling and relaxing locally. (The current state travel advisory advises people not to travel more than 120 miles from home.)

Actor Kevin Costner appeared on the forum in a recorded video message to bring the point home. “Living here means understanding why people never stopped coming,” he said.

“I know it was a tough and tragic year. It affects us all, ”added Costner. “Keep dreaming because … when you build it up again they will come.”

Gregory Thomas is the editor of Lifestyle & Outdoor at The Chronicle. E-mail: Twitter: @ GregRThomas