California Soon to Allow Venues to Reopen for Group Meetings

Judy Williams, Senior News Editor
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Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The news is big. A just announced plan to allow California convention centers and other businesses to return more quickly to business as usual drew widespread praise from industry leaders.

“The governor’s reopening plan is tremendous news for some of the hardest-hit areas of the economy, especially the conventions and large meetings sector that has been completely shut down for 14 months,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, in a statement. “It is fully possible to safely hold conventions and large meetings while observing prescribed health standards and practices, and California’s new guidance allowing such gatherings up to 5,000 people is in full agreement with current science and the CDC’s assessment that it is safe for vaccinated individuals to travel. Other states should follow this example of a science-driven reopening, especially as more and more Americans get vaccinated.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom has designated June 15 as the date where all California businesses will return to usual operations with common-sense risk reduction measures such as masking and vaccinations. Caveats include that the state’s vaccine supply remains sufficient for Californians 16 years and older, and that hospitalization rates remain low and steady. Such being the case, every sector of California’s economy will be allowed to resume normal operations, he said, as long as public health policies remain in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Despite the positive news, the governor has no plans to lift the mask mandate, saying that wearing a mask “is the most powerful, important, non-pharmaceutical intervention you can do to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

Hotels and other hosts must adhere to the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and individual county health department guidelines based on COVID tiers and CHLA’s Clean & Safe Guidance for Meetings and Events. Individual County COVID status will still determine the number of meeting guests allowed. 

Further, on April 2 the state issued new guidelines to allow for the reopening of indoor concerts, sporting events, theater performances and conferences on April 15. However, capacity restrictions will be based on counties’ placement in the economic-recovery tier system, as well as the number of attendees who have been tested and/or vaccinated.

Related. COVID Vaccine Rollout Fuels Optimism for the Trade Show Industry

In his statement, Dow did express concern over the state’s guidelines that includes mandatory vaccinations for international convention and trade show attendees that also stipulates that unless testing or vaccination status is verified for all attendees, conventions will be capped at 5,000 persons until October 1.

“While the travel industry strongly encourages everyone to be vaccinated as the most effective path to a full economic reopening, a vaccination should not be a requirement to travel — and is unnecessary in this case because of the CDC’s current mandate that international visitors have a negative COVID test,” Dow said.

“On balance, California’s reopening guidance is a major step in the right direction that is a boon for the economy and guided by science.”

Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or rdow@ustravel.org