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Santa Cruz County getting geared up for Memorial Day tourism

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV)-Santa Cruz county says in 2023, its recovery rate stood at 135%, which was the highest post-pandemic recovery rate of any county in California.

Visitors like Erik Bemest is traveling from Tucson, Arizona is revisiting from 11 years ago and brought his wife here to experience it.

“We’ve been eating out here in California, we go and stop and eat and we can’t buy too much stuff, I mean a couple t-shirts here and there but that’s about it," Bemest said.

Last year, visitors spent 1.4 billion dollars at hotels, restaurants, stores and attractions in the county. Restaurants like Gilda’s on the wharf feel the impact.

“It’s been busy rushes during unexpected times and I feel like that just challenges you to grow and become better at what you’re doing," Alisha Dodds the manager of Gilda's.

Santa Cruz county says the state and local tax revenue generated by tourism reached nearly 123 million dollars in 2023.

Kamal, the owner of Aqua Breeze inn sees more tourists coming in during the summer and is hopeful the trend will continue.

“I always see the correlation between when kids are out of school and the boardwalks open," Kamal Naran the owner of Aqua Breeze Inn said. "We have customers outside of that and it’s a little bit of travel from people here and there, but it really really depends on families coming to the boardwalk.”

Restaurants, shops and hotels are preparing their businesses for the rush as memorial day weekend approaches.

“We’ve got an extra stack of supplies, we have done some recent hiring so we’re making sure that we have adequate staff to get the best service possible," Dodds said. "We printed extra ordered extra crayons for all the kiddos out there so yeah i feel like we're pretty well prepared.” 

Businesses and hotels spoke to KION on how they are continuing preparing for this weekend and months ahead.

County tourism hopes to continue growing as Santa Cruz city council approves new hotels within the area.

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Briana Mathaw


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