Heartfelt Message from Visit California CEO on COVID-19 Effects
We must not forget to look after ourselves
Today, Caroline Beteta, President & CEO of Visit California, shared an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of her organization, in particular one of their board members who came down with anxiety as a result of this pandemic, and from the situation in the Golden State.
Dear Industry Partners,
For most of us, the coronavirus pandemic will go down as the biggest challenge we face in our professional lives.
As predicted, we are experiencing a jagged recovery, and the California tourism industry and millions of workers are suffering significant economic and emotional turmoil. Our efforts to save businesses, support our employees and protect our families continue 24/7, with no letup in sight.
Through it all, we must not forget to look after ourselves.
No better reminder of that came Tuesday with the publication of a heartfelt, courageous account from Lenny Mendonca on the debilitating impact of depression and anxiety.
As Gov. Newsom’s chief economic and business adviser, Lenny was a member of the Visit California Board of Directors. He also chaired the state’s high-speed rail commission, remains a senior partner emeritus of McKinsey and Co. and owns Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.
As the pandemic began to rage in April, he resigned the government posts with a surprise announcement from the Governor’s Office that he would “focus on family and personal business.” But not until Tuesday did the world know of his diagnosis of severe depression.
I was particularly struck by this passage from his piece, referring to his inability to accept the initial medical warnings: “At the time, I told myself and my team that we all have to operate at 120%. For me, this meant 80-hour work weeks and barely sleeping. I realize now that not only did I put my own health at risk, but also I was a bad role model for my team.”
Among other things, it prompted for me past campaigns for Project: Time Off that note the hundreds of millions of vacation days Americans leave on the table each year, and the negative health impacts of doing so.
Don’t get me wrong, time off is not a panacea. Depression and anxiety are serious mental health disorders that can surface because of a variety of factors. Failing to maximize your down time or tend to your family cannot overcome conditions that may have been festering for decades.
But Lenny’s story is instructive to all of us about the pressure we put on ourselves and staff, particularly during these times. I’m grateful that someone who is so respected in this industry, in business and government, had the eloquence and guts to relate it. I urge you all to read it.
As he said: “Far too often, people suffer these illnesses with shame and without support. As our country wrestles with massive unemployment, widespread economic uncertainty, the continuation of coronavirus and ongoing fights for racial and social justice, it has never been more urgent for business and economic leaders to move beyond platitudes on mental health. Leaders must ensure people can find vital care and acceptance for mental health challenges without punitive professional or personal impact.”
Rising case statistics in California and across the nation have started to affect consumer sentiment, according to Visit California’s latest research. After slow but steady improvement in confidence, consumers are returning to a risk averse mindset. For the week ending July 5, 54% of Californians said they were going to stay home and venture out as little as possible, up from 44% two weeks before – a 23% uptick.
For those ready to travel, Visit California continues to encourage that they do so safely and responsibly – plan ahead, physically distance, wash your hands and wear face coverings. I urge you to share Visit California’s Responsible Travel Code using print and digital assets in our industry toolkit.
As always, thank you for your support and resilience during this time.