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Monterey County

Monterey County tourism hit hard by coronavirus

MONTEREY WHARF

MONTEREY, Calif. (KION)

The first numbers released during the COVID-19 pandemic related to Monterey County tourism are alarming. Published by the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the short-term loss is estimated to be $400 to $500 million in first 90 days.

Businesses, including hotels and restaurants have shut their doors, reduced staff, or limited their services - particularly after county and state "shelter in place" and "stay at home orders." Monterey County CVB President and CEO Rob O'Keefe says that it's likely thousands of tourism-related employees have already been laid-off.

"I would characterize the sentiment right now as being uncertain, cautious, but determined to get through this and recover," O'Keefe says.

In a press release this week, John Turner, Monterey County CVB board chair and general manager of the InterContinental The Clement Monterey, said, "our community and industry have never seen anything like this." He adds, "we are dealing with both a global health crisis and a dire economic emergency at the same time."

Right now, O'Keefe tells KION most of the immediate aid is coming from the businesses themselves - changing their business practices to stay open (like moving to take out only) or trying to provide insurance to employees if they close.

"I was at a restaurant in Carmel where the owner of the restaurant was in the kitchen making the meatballs and it was amazing. And to me that engenders a real sense of determination."

Moving forward, he says that it is critical to learn the human impact - exactly how many businesses and people are being effected by COVID-19 and the shelter in place orders. His wish list regarding help from local officials has to do with "cost alleviation relative to what it takes to own a property here."

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an agreement with banks to temporarily suspend mortgage payments. Local cities and counties are also passing emergency ordinances to halt evictions, including the city of Monterey who approved their new rule Wednesday night.

Monterey City Councilmember Alan Haffa also tells KION that in April, the council will discuss another proposal to defer rent for a period of time on 80 different leases with businesses on the wharf and other spots around the city.

However, he says that the city's financial state will impact how much they can help. In November, they declared a "fiscal emergency" with a deficit estimated to grow to $5.2 million dollars in three years. The declaration led to a sales tax increase on the March 2020 ballot, which passed. Haffa says this will help with a quicker rebound.

O'Keefe says there is hope on the horizon, pointing to the fact that many events are being moved to future dates instead of canceled outright.

"Meetings and conferences, about 60 percent or more, that have postponed, are rescheduling at the end of this year or next year."

California's shelter in place order is opened ended. Governor Newsom says they will evaluate and adjust over the next six to 12 weeks.

Coronavirus / Health / Monterey / News / Top Stories

Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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