California is trying to reopen. Do you need to go?

Healdsburg, California (CNN) – After more than three months of imprisonment with four children aged 5 to 8, Heather Reichel is determined to make a family vacation on Venice Beach memorable for everyone.

She won a sweet vacation rental a few blocks from the Strand. Her husband remained a freelancer. The rest of the plan was simple: The six of them would drive from their home in Northern California and spend a long weekend cruising the beaches, exploring the canals and watching the people.

Courtesy of Heather Reichel

It was then that new Covid-19 cases began to emerge.

Reichel and her husband read with horror about the rise in coronavirus numbers in and around Los Angeles. They agreed when Governor Gavin News ordered the Los Angeles County to close again. The Reichels, shamefully, made the difficult decision to cancel the trip just weeks after booking it. At least for now, their fun family vacation will have to wait.

“We desperately wanted a vacation, but our kids hadn’t even been to the store for four months, so I wasn’t comfortable moving around in such large numbers,” Reichel said, adding that she managed to get all of her money back. “We’re just going to have to explore LA some other time.”

Reichels aren’t the only travelers considering trips to and around California; every day, tens of thousands of potential summer vacations go through similar steps.

It’s hard to blame any of them for touching the brakes. While the state’s leisure industry reopened in mid-June, Newsom withdrew many acts this week in an attempt to slow the virus’s transmission over the weekend of July 4th.

In short, an increasing number of Covid-19 cases have asked many travelers whether traveling to or within California is a smart – or moral – decision.

Point Arena, a small coastal town in Mendocino County, along the famous California Highway 1

Point Arena, a small coastal town in Mendocino County, along the famous California Highway 1

Carol M. Highsmith / Visit California

Alarming data

A series of new data sheds light on at least some of the reasons behind this hesitation.

The data comes from Destination Analysts, a San Francisco-based market research firm that has surveyed 1,200 potential travelers every week since the pandemic began about their opinions on travel.

CEO Erin Francis-Cummings said in May and early June, respondents from the survey reported excitement about the possibility of going out and traveling again. But in recent weeks, as the number of cases has jumped across the country, good vibes are declining.

In the latest iteration of the list Coronavirus travel sensation index, conducted June 26-28, 2020, the number of people who said they did not plan to travel in 2020 jumped to 37.4 percent from 32.8 percent the previous week.

Francis-Cummings says the new figure is a record high in her organization’s 16-week survey. She guessed it was probably a record in modern travel history.

“The situation is the least variable,” she said, noting that the data reflects views from across the state. “When you consider closing everything down for three months, and people still feel that way, really.”

Scene from Redondo Beach, California, July 2, before the beach is closed for vacation July 4

Scene from Redondo Beach, California, July 2, before the beach is closed for vacation July 4

Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

What arouses that fear? What motivates four out of 10 Americans to say they won’t be traveling again this year? Undoubtedly, a change in the nature of the pandemic plays a role. The second factor: non-compliance.

Francis-Cummings said that many travelers seem to be afraid of what destination analysts call “bad pandemic etiquette,” like people who don’t wear masks or maintain proper social distancing.

“We see that there was a connection that if they observed the behavior in their community, then they were much less likely to be okay with the tourists who came to them,” she said. “I think watching these behaviors scares people and makes them not want to risk going out or to their cities or traveling elsewhere.”

Paradoxically sending messages

In California, this problem can complicate the paradox in conveying travel reopening messages.

Leisure travel reopened on June 12 and a visit to California, the state tourism marketing organization, invites residents to go out and explore their mass home state.

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During the shutdown, Visit California launched “See You Soon,” a series of digital ads designed to excite people in exploring their state this summer. The new digital, radio and television campaign “Inviting All California” is set to launch on August 3 and is designed to encourage Californians to think about enjoying local places and experiences.

Caroline Beteta, a visit to the president and CEO of California, said she hopes this assistance will help the state’s tourism industry recover from about three months of closure. According to research firm Tourism Economics, California is expected to miss up to $ 72.1 billion in travel costs this year – nearly half of what was achieved in 2019.

Excerpt from the VIsit California digital advertising campaign

Excerpt from the VIsit California digital advertising campaign

From a visit to California

“[The new campaign] is really there to encourage [people] look at their list of California buckets as a modern act of patriotism and really help their California counterparts get back on their feet, “she said.” If we are out there visiting and spending money, we will really speed up the economy ”.

Many California residents receive different instructions at home. Several of California’s 58 counties remain effectively closed to travel, and Newsoms on July 1 cut most tourism activities to 19 other countries.

Many regional health services recommend residents to engage only in “necessary” travel outside their home counties. A recent statement from the state Department of Public Health reinforced this warning: The list of critical precautions begins with the warning, “Stay home whenever possible. It’s the safest place for everyone.”

The paper also reminds people to wear masks in public and to maintain six meters of physical distance.

Individual destinations have gone so far as to completely ban visitors. For example, in May, just before Remembrance Day weekend, the city of South Lake Tahoe told people to stay away, warning that they would impose $ 1,000 in fines on those traveling to the area for irrelevant reasons. The warning was withdrawn a week later.

In recent weeks Visit California compiled a website with travel information “responsibly” during a pandemic. But if local councils do not recommend travel at all, the contradictions could potentially raise more questions than they answer.
Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, near South Lake Tahoe

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, near South Lake Tahoe

Parks Brian Baer / California

Brian Ketterer, head of the coastal department of the State Department of Parks and Recreation, admitted the situation is confusing.

“There must have been a mixed message from the public,” said Ketterer, whose department oversees 280 park-units. “Some of our campsites in the park are open, others are closed, and others don’t accept new reservations. That basically means they’re only open to travelers who booked reservations before the pandemic started. People want to get out and recreate, but I think that hardly anyone can figure out what’s going on. “

Hotel cargo

No one in the state travel industry feels this mess more seriously than the hotel.

Yes, most of these facilities are open for business. Yes, many have adopted strict precautions and guidelines that meet the requirements of county public health offices, the California Department of Occupational Safety, and the California Hotel and Accommodation Association.

But enforcing these rules is inconsistent. And no place can guarantee that visitors will follow the same rules when they leave the premises.

The Farmhouse Inn, a small resort in Sonoma County, reopened on June 18th.

The Farmhouse Inn, a small resort in Sonoma County, reopened on June 18th.

Friendly Farmhouse Inn

Joe Bartolomei, co-owner and managing partner of the company Farmhouse Inn, a popular 25-room resort in Sonoma County, reopened its estate on June 18 and described its emotions over the return as a “mix of excitement and anxiety”. Bartolomei noted that running a tourism business during a pandemic brings with it a number of new risks and responsibilities that passenger operators have not had to deal with before.

“We’ve always been responsible for people’s personal safety when they’re on the property, but that means we don’t want them to slip or be in physical danger in their rooms,” he said. “It’s a whole new level of security now. We say, ‘We believe you can come here and not get sick.’ “We need to be more intentional in everything.”

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To meet this challenge, Farmhouse has put together a number of features and protocols to keep the site as safe as possible. Some of these new initiatives include disinfection stations, aerosol cleaners for soft surfaces, and regular wiping of high-touch parts, such as doors.

The resort has also posted reminders that you should wear masks and keep a distance of at least six feet from the others.

“We have to make sure that we make the right decisions at every step,” Bartolomei said. “If we have to close again, there will be a phenomenal amount of relegation.”

Other hotels have spent resources on different approaches.

On Hotel Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles, housewives enter guest rooms between stays and introduce ultraviolet light technology to neutralize airborne particles.
On Nobu Ryokan Malibu, when guests arrive they must be examined at the temperature to make sure they show no symptoms of the virus.

Given the high clientele that visits the 16-bedroom beaches on the beach, GM Janelle Eng said she and her staff tried to make the process as painless and discreet as possible.

With just 16 rooms, the Nobu Ryokan Malibu is the perfect hotel for the social distance

With just 16 rooms, the Nobu Ryokan Malibu is the perfect hotel for the social distance

Courtesy of Nobu Ryokan Malibu

The time scanner looks like an iPad; to view themselves, guests simply stand in front and look straight ahead. If the guest has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, the staff in front of the reception will take that person to the reception desk, do a visual check and take the guest’s temperature again with another thermometer.

Eng said that if the guest still fails to register the usual reading, the hotel will work with him to address the next steps, including a potential rearrangement of the visit.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure these protocols don’t feel clinical or awkward,” she said. “At the same time, we are responsible for keeping guests, employees and everyone on our property as healthy as possible.”

Challenges of theme parks, attractions, restaurants

The stakes are even higher for other players in the tourism industry.

For example, theme parks and attractions. These destinations attract thousands or tens of thousands of visitors every day – every potential vector for Covid-19. Although many officials of these institutions are eager to reopen after months of lost income, most struggle with the same kind of anxiety as Bartolomei and look at case numbers very carefully.

Disneyland at Anaheim has postponed the reopening indefinitely.

Disneyland at Anaheim has postponed the reopening indefinitely.

Apu Gomes / AFP / Getty Images

Disneyland is a great example. The theme park aimed to reopen the phases starting July 17, but park officials said last month they were postponing those plans indefinitely.

Legoland California, a theme park below I-5 in Carlsbad, recently announced similar delays; the park was ready to reopen on July 1, but earlier this week issued a statement postponing at least August 1.

“We understand that we live in an unprecedented public health situation like this, so our schedule is constantly evolving based on the information we receive,” said Kurt Stocks, Legoland’s GM. “Whenever we reopen, we will welcome guests in a reduced capacity, but an incredibly safe and sanitary environment.”

Safari West, an animal theme park in Santa Rosa, reopened to the public on June 20 and added Plexiglas partitions to separate guests sitting in all-wheel drive vehicles that tour visitors around the 400-acre property.

As press time reported, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey was still planning to reopen on July 9 for members and July 13 for the public. Spokesman Kevin Connor said that when the attraction receives returning guests, it will establish a series of new measures aimed at minimizing virus transmission. In particular, he said, guests over the age of 3 will need to wear face blankets, children’s playgrounds will be closed, and some of the more cramped exhibits will be out of bounds.

Connor added that guests will be able to follow two separate one-way trails through the aquarium.

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“We want people to visit them, but we’re really trying to give them the space they need,” he said. “If you feel like you’re missing something for the first time, you can always go through it again.”

Restaurants are also struggling to embrace tourism.

Even after Newsom ordered 19 counties to re-close the indoor lunch on July 1, more than half of the state counties allow it, as long as restaurants can safely place tables six feet apart.

Some restaurants do not take risks and guests sit only on the outdoor porches or dining rooms on the al-fresco where the risks of transmission are less. Other restaurants are trying new approaches to give guests a spirit.

The Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs uses QR codes to reduce touch points.

The Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs uses QR codes to reduce touch points.

Courtesy of LULU California Bistro

On LULU California Bistro in Palm Springs, CEO John Shay said he implemented the new technology without touching the menu to reduce the need for guests and servers to share anything but food and bills.

The system revolves around QR codes; To order, the guest simply scans the codes with their phone and a menu automatically appears in the web browser. Servers can also supply a disposable paper menu if guests prefer.

Since the announcement, only the garden at LULU has been open, but Shay said guest feedback on the new approach to ordering has been extremely positive.

“When you walk in here, you’ll feel safe,” he said.

What it all means for travelers

At the end of the day, of course, except perhaps those who already had Covid-19 and recovered from it, none of us are actually “safe” from it.

This means that the traveler is burdened to follow local public health guidelines the best they can.

Ketterer, a state parks official, said most California residents “don’t have to go outside their home counties to have a good time.” His advice: Plan a visit in an extraordinary time to avoid crowds and be prepared to change plans if the vibration at the destination becomes uncomfortable.

He also recommended the use of an RV or trailer to maximize “self-retention” and minimize the need to leave and exit local facilities to use the bathroom or get food.

For longer trips to California or for visitors outside the state who are itching from quarantine with a trip to Golden State, it is important to follow the rules and regulations of each destination and be considerate of those who live there.

I repeat, at least minimally, that means wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others and washing your hands regularly.

And travelers visiting New York, Connecticut and New Jersey can currently expect to have to return to quarantine upon returning home – which is a substantial price to pay for fun in the sun.
Theme parks like Legoland are reopening in California

Theme parks like Legoland are reopening in California

Daniel Knighton / Getty Images

Francis-Cummings, a researcher at destination analysts, said that while any American could take advantage of a good escape in a coronavirus pandemic at this point, the best decision for some might just be to stay put, or do what the Reichels did, cancel and hope to travel some other time.

“Is it moral to travel to or within California now? I absolutely think you could certainly set that up,” she said. “It goes against our DNA because Americans need to be told we can’t do something, and I think people thought traveling was an important part of life before Covid-19. Some might think it’s absolutely right to do it. Others may can’t. be comfortable. There is no right answer. It all comes down to behaving appropriately and taking the necessary precautions – for you and for everyone else. “

Matt Villano is a writer and editor living in Northern California. The first place is taken by his family when they feel comfortable traveling again: Hana, to the Hawaiian island of Maui. Learn more about him at

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