Navigate to our accessibility widget

Thursday May 7, 2020

By Andrew Ward


Cannabis tourism is a burgeoning industry on the ropes after the COVID-19 pandemic. Presently, stay-at-home orders have halted cannabis tourism just as it has all other non-essential services and needs. As of April 17, 2020, 96% of the world's destinations had imposed travel restrictions of some kind, according to a World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report. Of the global destinations, 90 had wholly or partially shut down — another 44 closed access to tourists from certain countries.

Speculation runs rampant across the industry over the fate of each of its sectors, tourism especially. Some have already taken action. Brands in tourist destinations like Las Vegas are rethinking their strategies to appeal to tourists.

For others, they continue to forecast and wait before taking action. To best prepare for any potential outcomes, it's best to assess the key industries involved in travel, and how the latest news in each sector may affect cannabis tourists going forward.

Cannabis Sales, Events and Activities

Tourists first sought out cannabis destinations for the flower and the happenings in the local community. Soon enough, events like Cannabis Cups and industry gatherings like MJBizCon would join the fray, adding to the appeal of a destination over the years. In time, the combination of good pot, cannabis-centric activities and an appealing destination became a combination fueling the growing marijuana tourism sector from coast to coast.

Regions dependent upon tourism could experience a devastating blow due to COVID-19, according to industry experts. Cities like Denver, Los Angeles and the previously mentioned Las Vegas and their cannabis tourism-driven market could be particularly hurt.

Wanda James, owner of Colorado's Simply Pure Brands and a member of the Colorado Tourism Office Board, told PotGuide people will want to experience cannabis because it is still new to so many. That said, James believes dispensaries and other retailers may need to rethink operations in the months to come. The entrepreneur and board member detailed what customers might expect in shops across Colorado. “You will now see that gloves and masks may be mandatory, said James, who added that the ability to see and smell cannabis might no longer be allowed. She also expects continued interest in drive-up and delivery services rather than visiting in-store.

The Las Vegas cannabis tourism industry has been strongly affected by COVID-19. photo credit

While cities could see harsh times, the appeal of nature may prove too much for some. Providing people with space and relaxation, the call to nature may come back with force. Darrin "Yogi-D" Zeer said his company, 420 Yoga Retreats, received calls from travelers after a quiet start to April.

"Inquiries were mostly none at the beginning of the epidemic, but there seems to be a sudden desire to travel in nature." Zeer said group trips consist of 16 or fewer people and doesn't allow any sharing to adhere to social distancing requirements.

The Hospitality and 420 Friendly Lodging Industry

The demand for travel lodging, from hotels to Airbnbs, could all be on the decline in the months and years to come. The decline in demand expects to affect tourists as well as work travelers. Vox reported that numerous prominent companies appear to indicate that employee travel will be cut. The impact will also come from scores of live events being canceled or pivoting to online gatherings.

That said, not all in the hotel industry are inclined to call the next year a wash just yet. Some, like hospitality industry publication Hotel Management, see the fallout potentially following the path of the 2003 SARS pandemic. In that case, epicenters for the breakout, like Toronto, saw negative sentiment and down business for hotels last for some time. That said, regions that avoided massive outbreaks of the virus saw a modest decline in business.

In this case, destinations like New York City and the Pacific Northwest may take the better part of a year to see its numbers start to return to normal after months of losses.

Will Hatton, CEO of The Broke Backpacker, said people are likely to be more careful when interacting with strangers. As such, certain lodging types, like hostels, could be impacted most. Hatton explained, "We are less likely to spend our time in the close company of people we don't know, instead focusing our time on those who we know and trust to be careful."

The CEO believes concerns will lessen over time. However, companies and travelers are likely to have such worries for the next few years.

Marijuana Social Lounges

Social consumption spaces began taking modest progressive steps in the U.S., with cafes joining hookah bars and underground consumption lounges as the earliest entrants into the market. However, those steps may be a wash as the sector likely takes a pounding in a post-coronavirus world.

Coronavirus is impacting many social aspects of the cannabis industry. photo credit

Restaurants and lounges with close-quarter capacities are expected to be the last enterprises reopened across the country. Coupled with the stigma millions of citizens will hold towards these spaces, the effects on such establishments could be too much to recover from. Those same stigmas and concerns could extend to lawmakers if they have to consider legislation in their cities or states.

The above is conjecture for the most part. What isn’t, however, is the understanding that the market is going to suffer. Bars, restaurants and, by possible extension, consumption lounges could be in for a long road back to recovery. If consumption lounges are anything like these establishments, many newcomers to the market could go under without a dedicated, established base of clients.

Currently, uncertainty remains. However, some are pivoting plans in a bid to keep their dreams alive. Only time will tell how the COVID-19 pandemic truly impacts cannabis tourism and we are certainly hoping for the best. In the meantime, it’s good to be aware of the steps that need to be taken before consumers are fully comfortable engaging in the cannabis tourism industry once again.

How do you think coronavirus will impact cannabis tourism in the long run? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Ross Parmly (license)


Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

More From This Author

Related Articles