The spirit of optimism is alive and well in Palm Springs.
“While the sunshine, heated pools, and stellar attractions make the city a destination for people looking for relaxation and adventure alike, the pandemic has changed Palm Springs’ visitor profile considerably,” Michael Green, chair of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild and Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, said. “Visitors from Europe are not coming as frequently as in previous years, and Canadians, who typically help boost the Coachella Valley’s economy, didn’t start returning until November.”
That said, the number of visitors overall exceed those of pre-covid days, and since June 2020, the vast majority of travelers have been domestic. Let’s dive into the reasons why.
Feeling Safe on the Road
With the pandemic ongoing, many people feel safer planning a road trip with their family instead of getting on an airplane or cruise ship. San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are no more than a 3.5-hour road trip away from Palm Springs, and even people from the San Francisco Bay Area can drive here within a day. For those in the northwest, they can turn Palm Springs into a road trip destination, making leisurely stops to see sights along the way. Road trippers not only pack their comfort items, but pets are welcome in Palm Springs, so Fifi and Brutus can come along for the ride, too.
Direct Flights to Palm Springs
For travelers who do choose to fly, the Palm Springs International Airport is easy to navigate, just five minutes from downtown Palm Springs, and welcomes direct flights from many U.S. cities. Major airlines are always adding direct routes to Palm Springs, and new carriers are building the city into their business plans. According to Daniel Meier, Palm Springs International Airport’s deputy director of aviation, marketing, and air service, arrivals are up nearly 25 percent at the airport.
When people first couldn’t go into the office to work, they came up with innovative ways to get their jobs done. Zoom allowed them to connect with colleagues and customers from anywhere with WiFi, and Palm Springs became a choice workcation destination. “With the ability to work remotely, we noticed a trend that people were taking advantage of the opportunity to stay longer,” Joyce Kiehl, director of communications for Visit Greater Palm Springs, said.
A Change of Residence
Palm Springs was one of the epicenters of the 2021 summer real estate boom, as harsh northeastern winters and being stuck inside brought to mind visions of sitting under a palm tree near the pool, conducting business meetings on Zoom. Robert Hunt, manager of Alcazar Palm Springs, said he has noticed that “many of our guests are staying here while looking for property.” Bob Deck, an agent with Town Real Estate, has found that people interested in buying homes in Palm Springs are “tired of the traffic in the bigger cities. They are looking for ways to take their commute time and turn it into family time.”
What Does the Data Show?
Things are looking up in Palm Springs, with hoteliers and retailers seeing a 23 to 25 percent increase in business in November, compared to the same month a year earlier. Jeff Witthuhn, owner of downtown gift shop Peepa’s, said he’s seeing “many more customers are coming from the East Coast,” while Kim Galland, owner of the women’s accessory store Kimbals, attributes her growth to previous customers who are delighted to be out in the world shopping.
In October, the city reported that transit occupancy tax collection increased almost 45 percent over 2020. Randy Garner, marketing manager for the Palm Springs Board of Tourism, noted that most events and conferences were canceled in the fall and winter of 2020, and the recent success of the 2021 Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade illustrates people are ready to get out there and enjoy the many aspects of our welcoming community, including new public art and restaurants.
Thriving is a word that best describes Palm Springs. Remodeling of stores, the upgrading and restoration of our hotels, and additional direct flights are making our ever-changing desert community a destination that encourages visitors to come back again and again. What are you waiting for? Make a reservation through Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels to see this fabulous city for yourself.