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Paso Robles tourism industry “thriving” as COVID restrictions lift and visitors return

Alta Colina, Paso Robles - 2015

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to deal a major blow to tourism on the local, national and international scale. But as restrictions lift, tourists are venturing out more and more — and a nonprofit marketing organization says the tourism industry in Paso Robles is “thriving.”

Flickr member goingslo

Travel Paso Executive Director Stacie Jacob said tourism in the city has not only rebounded to pre-pandemic levels but actually exceeded it, according to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues. TOT is a tax billed to guests at places like hotels and short-term rentals.

“It gives us a quantifiable way to look at those people who are truly staying in our lodging businesses,” Jacob said.

Jacob said those numbers reveal a healthy tourism industry that shows strong signs of growing.

“We’ve now been through 11 months of record TOT, which is pretty phenomenal for a community like ours," Jacob said. "Also, in July of last year, we hit a milestone we’ve never seen before, which was reaching $1 million in TOT in a single month.”

On some level, Jacob said Paso Robles was more protected from the negative effects of COVID on tourism than other cities, mainly due to local wineries’ and restaurants’ ability to move outdoors.

KCBX News - Randol White

Jacob said there is a close connection between wine and tourism in the city.

“We know that the two have really been joined in a big way all along, but I think that over recent years we’ve really seen how closely aligned the two industries really are,” Jacob said.

In addition to wine, Jacob attributed the tourism success to the city’s status as a rural travel destination that is attractive for many Californians.

“Paso Robles is really that one-tank road trip away from two major metropolitan areas, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. So we’re really able to get folks who have more flexibility in their schedule," Jacob said. "We’re still kind of a safe getaway and accessible for many folks.”

Travel Paso said tourists typically spend more than $355 million annually in Paso, and that one in five jobs in the city are based in tourism.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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