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The Tragic Plight of the Santa Monica Pier & the California Tourism Industry - Totally LA
LA 2020

The Tragic Plight of the Santa Monica Pier & the California Tourism Industry

One of the largest industries in Southern California is the travel and tourism industry. In 2019 tourism created 535,000 jobs and brought 36 billion dollars into the Los Angeles economy.

Those days are over.  The tourism industry in California has been crippled. It’s going to have a difficult time coming back.  We’ve talked about the fate of the Venice Boardwalk and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in earlier articles and videos.

Likewise the iconic Santa Monica Pier has suffered.  Unlike Hollywood and Venice, the pier hasn’t been overtaken by homeless people.  The pier faces extinction due to the extremely long and senseless shutdown of the pier combined with the lack of tourists.

The Santa Monica Pier with its iconic ferris wheel and rides in Pacific Park once drew over 23,000 tourists daily. That ended on March 16 when the pier and other major tourist attractions in Los Angeles were shut down.  

It was supposed to be 2 weeks to slow the spread.  Yet the pier remained completely closed until June 24.  The reopening was very limited. Restaurants in the city could offer take out food and later outdoor dining, but the restaurants on the pier had to remain closed. The vendor kiosks and amusement park were also closed. People could go out and walk around the pier, but it was essentially still closed.

Under California Governor Newsom’s plan, reopening has been needlessly restrictive and prolonged.  On the open air pier where risks of spreading the virus are low the restrictions imposed seem harsh.  When it did begin to reopen, the number of tourists allowed on the pier has been limited to just 3,000 people.  The restaurants on the pier that were later allowed to open for outdoor dining operated at less than 30% of their capacity. 

That won’t even cover basic operating costs.  And like their landlocked counterparts, the restaurants were subjected to the constant open, close, open and closed again whiplash of governor Newsom’s ever changing whims. 

Pacific Park, the piers iconic amusement park, normally employees 500 people.  It was able to reopen for a very short period of time.  Only 50 of its employees returned to work.  It operated at 2 percent of normal volume. Again, its operating costs far outstripped revenue and the reopening was short lived.

Whatever limited re-opening that did occur came to a halt in December 2020 when Newsom ordered non-essential businesses closed and issued a new stay at home order for the state.  Once again the pier was deserted.

Miraculously, two days after Joe Biden was inaugurated into the White House, Newsom lifted the lockdown order.  Yet there had been no improvement in the hospital ICU capacity that he used to justify the new lockdown in the first place.

The amusement park is still shut down.  While some of the vendors on the pier have been able to reopen, it hasn’t helped them.  Due to extensive travel restrictions, visitors to the pier are locals. Most are not inclined to buy souvenirs of their trip to Santa Monica.  Few locals are likely to walk out onto the pier for outdoor dining when they can do so at a nearby restaurant in town.  

Though the businesses on the pier have not been able to operate for a year, their overhead still had to be paid.  Many will not be able to recover from the loss.  It’s quite possible the beautiful Santa Monica Pier will never return to what it once was.

We find the same at all of the major tourist hotspots through Los Angeles.  Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the top tourist attraction in LA the iconic theatres, Grauman’s Chinese, El Capitan, The Pantages and more remain boarded up.  The tourism industry in Los Angeles has been completely crippled.

The solution has proven to be much more deadly than the virus itself.  Looking at the tourism industry in Los Angeles alone, the lockdowns have erased $36 billion dollars from the economy and eliminated  535,000 jobs.  The loss in tax revenue to the state is over $12 billion.

Were the lockdowns to end tomorrow, California faces another hurdle to revive its sleeping tourism industry.  In recent years, images of growing homeless encampments in or near the major tourist destinations appearing in the international media.

Thanks to the staggering unemployment created by the lockdowns, the homeless population has exploded even more in 2020.  It’s difficult to find an underpass, park, beach, or neighborhood that isn’t littered with homeless encampments.  As the world begins to contemplate travel once again, travelers are taking note and crossing California off of their destination lists. 

California is in the late stages of a collision course with total disaster.  As the socialistic programs enacted by the Democratic majority in California have increased the strain on the state budget and the tax burden on its residents, the lockdowns have forced millions of Californians out of work and thousands of businesses to permanently close.  

This has resulted in a massive loss of tax revenue which he state is attempting to solve with hefty new taxes at a time Californians can least afford them.  This simply accelerates the spiral of decay.

California is one of the most beautiful states in the nation.  It was once the most prosperous.  Without a change in leadership, it will soon become the next Detroit… or worse.

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