Less tourism could spell disaster for the cannabis industry

Published Apr 27, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / zoom-zoom

So maybe your trip to Vegas where over 40 million tourists pass through each year or Cape Cod where Martha’s Vineyard beckons you is on hold. Travelling within the cannabis tourism space has halted as we know it today due to the COVID-19 virus that has wrapped its tentacles securely around us.

Floating above the pandemic

The cannabis industry is having to learn new ways to stay afloat in these dire times. Innovative ideas are needed to keep the cannabis tourist satisfied and willing to come back. Some of the things that cannabis retailers who have their businesses in a substantial tourism space are implementing include:

  • Alternative sales strategies; delivery and online sales
  • Offering regular customers discounts and incentives such as loyalty programs.
  • Increasing brand recognition among the local kush consumers, hence competing for nearby resident customers
    Vice president of Planet 13, a vertically integrated Las Ve

David Farris, knows that the way this pandemic is playing out makes the cementing of these customers for future sales paramount in the survival of the cannabis tourism and resident space. Currently, the Las Vegas cannabis tourism space is non-existent. Before the COVID-19 virus, about 80% of Plant 13 business was derived from the tourists visiting Las Vegas. Now amid the pandemic, trade has been reduced.

Time was not on the side of the cannabis dispensary when the state announced what the rules were around social distancing and being safe, and they had six hours to vamp up the providing of their product by introducing the delivery only rule. Adding 23 delivery vehicles to what Planet 13 already had bought the total to 25 cars to serve what is the cannabis tourism space in Las Vegas.

Perks or swag

As the cannabis tourism space adjusts to the new way that business needs to be conducted post-COVID-19, Nevada cannabis dispensaries are offering perks like:

  • Display your Nevada driver’s license to receive a 20% discount
  • Locals who may not be working are offered a value product

Massachusetts

March 24, 2020, saw a drastic swing in the number of medicinal cannabis users in Massachusetts. The banning of recreational cannabis during the pandemic saw an increase of 158% to medical dispensaries since Gov Charlie Baker evoked the banning of the incredible Kush strain and other sought after cannabis strains.

Tim Shaw, chief operating officer of MariMed, saw his company pivot to medical cannabis to keep afloat of the devastating circumstances that the lack of tourism was presenting for the cannabis industry. Fifteen new patients are seen each day at his business. Although his business is surviving, Shaw anticipates problems further down the line if the beaches that welcome the cannabis tourist remain closed heading into the summer months.

Colorado

Cutbacks by Gov. Jared Polis to shut down the state's ski resorts in mid-March proved to be another drawback for the cannabis industry. Many of the skiing tourists were also cannabis tourists. The businesses surrounding the resorts and airports have noted drastic drops in sales, as the customer base has shrunk.

Seed and Smith, a vertically integrated cannabis company that calls home in Denver, has built part of its revenue on the expectation of tourism. The location of the business being close to the airport was a bonus for capturing the cannabis tourist eye and, eventually, their money. April saw the online ordering of recreational cannabis become legal during the pandemic, just to maintain cannabis businesses due to the lack of tourism.

The stay at home order in the United States has forced many cannabis companies to look for more inventive ways in the delivery of their products.  The cannabis tourist who, for the present time, is no longer on the high end of the market spectrum is patiently waiting for the orders to be rescinded, and for tourism, be it cannabis or others to resume business again.

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