During the height of the pandemic, California lost nearly half of the 1.2 million jobs in the hospitality and tourism industry.
In order to help spur tourism across the state, Visit California is helping people make up missed moments because of COVID-19 closures and restrictions.
Dressed in Padres gear from head to toe, die-hard Padres fan Alex Brown was one of two people who won an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of Petco Park Wednesday afternoon before the Padres took on their rivals from Los Angeles.
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The tour included up-close, 'Instagramable' moments with the players for Brown, his daughter and brother-in-law who's trembling hands showed his excitement.
“It’s pretty wild to see Yu Darvish,” exclaimed Brown as he watched on, standing near his seat in the front row on the first base line.
Brown's experience is part of Visit California's "Dreaming On In California" contest to help spur the pandemic-ravaged tourism industry in the Golden State by helping people relive moments canceled when California shutdown.
"I’m in the Navy and I was supposed to get promoted on the field last year, May 1, and there was no baseball season," said Brown.
In addition to the Petco Park experience, nearly 40 families won trips to places like Disneyland, road trips with stops in San Diego and other cities, and even pop-pup weddings for 10 people in Napa.
Last year and into this year we were losing as a state about a million a month from Californians who were leaving the state and looking for other vacation opportunities. We want to minimize dollars that are leaving
The state and looking for other vacation opportunities. "
Case in point, Browns brother in law Jayson Guerra down from Fullerton, “ I don't mind spending $100 or $200 to watch the Padres. It's priceless."
Danny Valdivia who also won the Padres experience came down from Upland to check out the park.
He shared the experience with his wife and kids who not only got to take home a fly ball, but spent money while experiencing America’s Finest City.
“We went out and had dinner last night. And then we walked around and had breakfast in the morning, " said Valdivia.
Money that remains in California, helping to shorten the tourism recovery curve after 55% percent lower visitor spending in 2020.
Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing $95 million to help the tourism industry recover.