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Report finds San Luis Obispo tourism industry on fast road to recovery


The tourism industry took a huge hit at the start of the pandemic when non-essential travel was discouraged. But according to San Luis Obispo’s Tourism Annual Report, the industry is making a comeback.

Molly Cano is the tourism manager for the City of San Luis Obispo. She says the industry was hit pretty hard last year.

“April 2020, we saw the lowest of the low,” Cano said. “We saw the lowest collections we’ve ever had. We saw the lowest occupancy that our city has ever experienced.”

Though, Cano says, the city began to see changes by the end of the fiscal year in June of 2021.

“We then were able to finish with some of the highest revenue generating months historically,” Cano said.

She said occupancy at lodging facilities is still lower than it was pre-pandemic but revenues are higher.

The total transient occupancy tax, or TOT, is a tax placed on tourism businesses that is reinvested in the city’s general fund. Cano said tourism brought in $6.9 million in TOT to San Luis Obispo last fiscal year to support things like street paving and open space acquisition.

“The tourism economy is a very important piece to our community overall,” Cano said. “Showing this glimmer of hope in this particular industry segment is going to help support our economy and our community overall.”

Experts believe the California tourism industry is expected to be fully recovered around 2024. But Cano said San Luis Obispo could see a quicker rebound.

“San Luis Obispo [is] primarily driven by leisure travel. That’s why we’re seeing a strong road to recovery already,” Cano said. “We are recovering with that California-based traveler that’s ready to get on the road, do that road trip, go somewhere they’ve never been before.”

Cano said being able to safely welcome international and business travelers will also help move San Luis Obispo’s tourism industry toward recovery more quickly.

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