MONTEREY – The hospitality and tourism industry, the No. 1 economic engine on the Monterey Peninsula, has high expectations for the full-throttle Classic Car multi-day slate of events starting Friday.
“We anticipate upwards of more than 85,000 visitors,” Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Rob O’Keefe said in an email. “In 2019, Car Week generated over $67 million. While international visitation, an important audience because they stay longer and spend more, isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, we are seeing a bigger increase with the return of this audience.”
Classic Car Week was put in idle during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but returned last year.
Monterey County’s travel industry has made strides in its recovery though foreign travel and business travel are still not up to pre-pandemic levels but there are signs that the trend is shifting.
The chamber of commerce tourist information center in Pacific Grove keeps track of where people are from when they visit the site and has seen an increase in foreign travelers since February, said Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jenny MacMurdo.
“We’ve seen an uptick in general of foreign travelers to our area and expect a lot will come now that travel bans have been mostly lifted,” said MacMurdo.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that during Classic Car Week 2021, hotel occupancy was down 10% from 2019, but it showed signs of “catching up.” The bureau told a roundtable of Classic Car Week stakeholders last month that hotels were already seeing event dates booked out.
Janine Chicourrat, managing director at The Portola Hotel and Spa adjacent to the Monterey Conference Center said the hotel has had almost all of its bookings for Classic Car Week since last year and is fully booked at this point.
“We’re ready to roll and looking forward to an incredible year,” said Chicourrat. “It’s the largest revenue week for Monterey County.”
MacMurdo said that Pacific Grove hotels have very few rooms left for Classic Car Week. The chamber calls around and keeps an updated list of available rooms and currently, there are five rooms still to be had.
But not every Classic Car Week visitor is searching for a hotel experience.
“I think there are two types of customers,” said Jan Leasure, managing broker at Monterey Bay Property Management.
One is a hotel customer who is looking for valet parking, room service, housekeeping and other amenities a hotel offers and the other is a vacation rental customer who wants a place to spread out and comes with the ability to live and cook in a home space, she said.
“There are still a very few rentals available,” said Leasure. “There have been a few cancellations and some new ones have been added to the inventory recently.”
For those looking beyond room service or preparing a meal in a vacation-rental kitchen, there are a myriad of restaurant choices on the Monterey Peninsula, but staffing has been an issue for some.
“We are fully staffed, I’m happy to say. We’ve been that way for a while and have been very fortunate,” said Jim Culcasi, owner of Rosine’s Restaurant in downtown Monterey.
Culcasi said other restaurants are still having trouble staffing up for Classic Car Week.
“We’re all in the same boat,” he said, adding that many restaurants have started paying more in employee wages.
“They’ve gone up considerably … 10 to 20% depending on the position,” said Culcasi.
It’s a result of the employee shortage and in preparation for the influx of people coming to the Monterey Peninsula not just during Classic Car Week, but in general.
MacMurdo echoed that sentiment and said that some P.G. restaurants are still having staffing problems.
It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation where owners are pitching in to do their part to seat, serve, and clean up after, their patrons, she said.
Though people in the hospitality and travel industry are excited about Classic Car Week 2022 and having visitors back, MacMurdo said her biggest concern is managing expectations.
Be kind to wait staff. Understand that things may take longer. Take care of the people who show up to serve.
“We want the message to be kind during Car Week,” she said.
The overall economic impact of Classic Car Week is several million dollars each year for local charities. The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has raised more than $32 million for charities alone since it began in 1950.
But Classic Car Week casts a much wider net of events in places such as Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Seaside and Carmel Valley. Classic Car Week features nearly 30 events including car shows, races, auctions, arts and lectures and concludes with the world-renowned Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, Aug. 22, and car enthusiasts, whether coming from out of the area or locally, will be able to enjoy free car events throughout the week.
One of the biggest draws this year will be the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which serves as the official kick-off to the year-long 100-anniversary celebration of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This event is anticipated to host the single-largest gathering of Le Mans overall winning or class winners ever assembled in America.
“Ultimately, the greatest beneficiary of tourism are our residents who benefit from the millions of dollars generated by travel,” said O’Keefe. “We consider tourism supporting quality of life. And we’re not just interested in promoting visits, we spend a lot of effort to educate travelers to treat our destination responsibly and respectfully.”
O’Keefe said the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau also creates content that is more for residents than travelers with information resources such as its Travel Alerts web section which provides a wide range of information including traffic advisories and road closures.
O’Keefe said it should be noted that Car Week is in reality more than a week stretching from Friday through Aug. 21 this year, but he stresses the Convention and Visitors Bureau is not suggesting a name change.
Visit SeeMonterey.com for event details, including an interactive map, and ways visitors can experience the Monterey Peninsula responsibly.
Contributed by local news sources