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Saving California's Restaurants Means Saving Its Tourism Industry | Frommer's Matthieu Colin

Saving California's Restaurants Means Saving Its Tourism Industry

Food is central to travel.

Each year I write a roundup of travel trends for Frommer's, and every time, culinary vacations play a huge role. Over the last decade, tours devoted to cooking, eating, and food production have exploded in number to keep up with demand.

We've also seen more and more upscale restaurants on cruise ships and in hotels, new apps and websites allowing users to eat with and learn to cook from locals worldwide, and foodie experiences appended to seemingly unrelated adventures like hiking and biking. 

Few industries have been impacted more severely by the coronavirus lockdown than the restaurant biz. In a Business Insider article titled "Restaurant Apocalypse," a UBS analyst predicts that 20% of the restaurants in the United States could permanently close during the crisis. 

But not in California, if a farsighted plan from Governor Gavin Newsom succeeds.

On Friday, Newsom announced a measure that could help solve two important problems at once. The state will start delivering three meals a day to at-risk seniors—and will partner with restaurants to make that happen. Best of all, the restaurants will be paid a fair price for those meals: up to $16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch, and $28 for dinner. 

The money for the program will come from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though the governor is expecting local municipalities to pay their fair share. Details are being hammered out for how seniors as well as restaurants can sign up to participate.

If this works, it could mean that the state emerges from this crisis with a higher percentage of restaurants still in business than in other states. And that, in turn, will provide a much-needed boost to the tourism sector when it finally revives.

California has always been a foodie destination. Could it wind up being the country's only one? 

As a resident of New York City, I've been supporting my favorite eateries during the lockdown by ordering takeout several times a week. But I can't do this alone. Here's hoping New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state leaders across the U.S. will follow California's model. 

They should do this not just for tourism—and not just to appease my gluttony—but for the economy as a whole. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants account for over 15.6 million jobs and 4% of the country's GDP. That comes out to $899 billion in annual revenue.

We need restaurants as much as they need us. Let's help them out!