Newsom Pushes Fake Data to Claim Tourism Boom Despite Lockdowns, Crime Wave


(Kenneth Schrupp, The Center Square) California Gov. Gavin Newsom stuck to his guns after claiming record-high tourism spending from atop the Golden Gate Bridge—despite the fact that the report he cited noted in the adjoining sentence that real spending was down 14% since 2019 after accounting for inflation.

“Last year, travelers spent a record-breaking $150.4 [billion] in the state—further cementing our spot as the state with the largest tourism market share in the country,” Newsom claimed atop the San Francisco landmark and suicide hotspot.

As one of the most populated, wealthy areas in the world, California naturally sits at the top of many rankings.

“… People can try to undermine California’s success all they want, but the fact is tourists keep visiting the 5th largest economy on planet Earth because of all our state has to offer and the data supports that,” said a spokesperson at the governor’s office after the Center Square published its fact check pointing out the misleading statistics.

Once accounting for inflation, real tourism-related tax revenues are down about 16%, and real earnings for tourism-related workers are down about 6%. Falling revenues have, in part, fueled California’s projected $73 billion deficit for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

Nonetheless, the governor’s spokesperson noted California leisure and hospitality jobs have doubled since April 2020, well into the Newsom-ordered COVID-19 lockdowns that completely shut down the state for months. California maintained many of its COVID policies until June 15, 2021—longer than almost every other state—which proved brutal for the state’s tourism industry.

Joining other national news organizations, the New York Times repeated the spurious claims, saying, “Spending by tourists rose to a record-high $150.4 billion in 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom said over the weekend—surpassing 2019 and suggesting that the pandemic slump has ended. The surge generated billions of dollars in tax revenue for the state and helped create 64,900 new jobs last year.”

The governor’s joint press release with Visit California cited Visit California’s report finding that while tourism spending in 2023 was up 3.8% from peak 2019 levels, those figures were not adjusted for inflation, which has been approximately 19% since 2019.

“Direct travel spending in 2023 increased 5.6% in current dollars,” confirmed the report. “Adjusted for inflation, travel spending in 2023 was down 14% from the peak (in 2019).”

California political leaders piled on the governor for his claim, pointing at the state’s fuzzy budget math as evidence of the governor’s fiscal ineptitude.

“It’s obvious Newsom is using the same faulty ‘math’ that caused California’s budget crisis. Let’s face it: Those numbers don’t add up,” state Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, told the Center Square. “It’s another bogus claim to deceive voters into thinking he’s actually doing a good job.”

Newsom’s revised budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year is expected to come out this Friday.

Newsom’s initial budget assumed a $38 billion deficit against the non-partisan, state-funded Legislative Analyst Office’s $73 billion estimate, and called for less than $10 billion in spending cuts.

California requires legislators to pass a balanced budget, so even if Newsom passes a balanced budget this year on fuzzy math, major cuts may have to come later—after elections—when that math doesn’t work out, as has been done in recent years.


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