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Thursday January 28, 2021

By Erin Hiatt


It’s a New Year, but the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. In fact, turning the calendar page onto 2021 only greeted us with news of an even more transmissible variant of the virus, a piece of disheartening news as states in the U.S. and countries around the world recommence widespread shutdowns and many hospital ICU’s are bursting beyond capacity. The hotel industry – from mega-chains like Marriott to the local 420 friendly bed and breakfast – has incurred a lot of financial damage from COVID because of travel restrictions and general consumer fear of traveling while the pandemic plays out. While it’s certain COVID has negatively impacted cannabis tourism, one question remains to be seen. Will canna-tourism and the demand for 420 friendly lodging be strong once it becomes safe to travel?

COVID-19 and the Hotel Industry

While it’s harder to quantify the losses of a boutique hotel, or bed and breakfast, one need only look as far as the required financial disclosures of some large hotel chains. Booking at Hilton hotel chains, as an example, dropped more than 81 percent in 2020 and put the company in the red to the tune of $430 million dollars. 

There may be a silver lining. When news broke in December that the FDA had approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, hotel booking platforms like Kayak and Priceline as well hotel chains like Marriott, Best Western and Hyatt, saw their largest daily booking bumps since COVID began its furious spread through the country last March.

It’s even harder to understand how the average 420 friendly lodging accommodation has suffered during the pandemic. But given the recent great news on the vaccine and subsequent hotel booking upturn, it’s safe to assume that 420 friendly lodging will see similar popularity post-COVID.

The Return of Cannabis Tourism and 420 Friendly Lodging?

Weed-friendly lodging not only brings tourists to specific destinations like Denver or Las Vegas, but contributes to local economies like restaurants, museums, shopping centers, and sports and entertainment venues. Getting tourism back to its pre-COVID state is an important part of a thriving economy overall. However, what is unique to tourists interested in cannabis is that they tend to pick destinations specifically because the state has legal weed.

Someone paying with a credit card
Compared to other tourists, cannabis tourists spend more money on average during their trip. photo credit

Another interesting tidbit about cannabis tourists is that they tend to spend more money during their travels. Looking at Colorado as an example, tourists who cited cannabis as their primary reason for visiting the Centennial State spent more money during their visit, around $2,030 on average, than their non-consuming counterparts who spent around $1,869.  While a difference of $161 dollars may not seem like a lot, over time (and with enough people) that can add up to a lot of cash. 

Bud and breakfasts and other cannabis-friendly lodgings do not comprise a large percentage of overall tourism on the whole, though they may play a larger role in well-established tourist markets like Colorado, or cities whose economies are driven by visitors like Las Vegas. However, that doesn’t mean that 420-friendly lodging won’t be vital to the revitalization of local economies post-COVID. For example, they are better positioned to connect their lodgers to a uniquely local experience by directing visitors to local dispensaries and their unique offerings.

The Future of 420 Friendly Lodging

Even though access to legal cannabis is more widespread than ever, there are still some touristy areas like the Berkshires in Massachusetts that haven’t had an opportunity to grow a cannabis tourism industry and affiliated 420 friendly lodging due to the lingering effects of cannabis prohibition.  

Will 420-friendly lodging be popular post-COVID? It seems that people, in general, are champing at the bit and are ready to go somewhere – anywhere – other than where they have been sheltering for more than nine months. And judging by the hotel booking spike on news of the vaccine, the answer seems to point to a resounding yes, though perhaps not as soon as we’d all like.

In the meanwhile, get to dreaming (and planning!) about your 420 vacation by checking out our collection of 420-friendly travel guides that cover many legal states across the country. 

Photo Credit: Private room in house hosted by Leah & David (license)


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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