Cannabis tourism in the United States was just starting to pick up steam before the coronavirus pandemic struck. More than a dozen states had already legalized recreational cannabis and tourists, especially from countries without legal adult-use cannabis markets, were eager to sample recreational cannabis during their visits. However, as the virus started to spread around the world, the United States closed its borders to international travel as Americans prepared for a long period of self-isolation. More than a year and a half later, America began opening its borders to the world.
Unsurprisingly, this has caused an uptick in the number of cannabis tourists visiting from abroad. Some recreational cannabis sellers are already seeing increased tourist numbers while others are expecting an influx of international visitors after winter. Retailers who have served international customers in the past say they have to nail a couple of things to optimize these interactions. They take time to engage with and educate the tourists and make sure price structures, including local fees and taxes, are clearly explained. Most importantly, they hire bilingual budtenders.
Las-Vegas-based Planet 13 is already serving international visitors now that some borders are back open. According to the director of retail Lowell Brown, out-of-town visitors were 80% of Planet 13’s clientele with 10% of them being international travelers. Once the international travel ban took effect, the Las Vegas store focused on local customers, switching to a curbside-pickup and home-delivery model to make the process more convenient and safer for the customers. At the start of June 2020, Planet 13 went back to offering 24/7 service.
Colorado’s Native Roots, which has a store near the Denver International Airport, also drew a large percentage of its revenue (10%) from international travelers. The first few months of the pandemic were hard, says district manager Chad Ricketts. Ricketts, who manages the Tower Road store, says he has seen a noticeable increase in foreign customers. However, it is still a long way from the numbers the store used to see before the pandemic. On the other hand, Nicole Campbell, a retail operator in Nantucket, Massachusetts, saw an influx of domestic tourists over the summer.
She expects international tourist numbers to increase significantly during the November 2022 tourist season. Plenty of foreign shoppers have never seen a legal cannabis retailer before, she says, and visiting one is quite an exciting experience for them. She notes that some of the domestic tourists who visited Nantucket last summer may decide to go abroad next summer.
An uptick in cannatourist numbers would generally be good for the entire marijuana industry, including established companies such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) that would enjoy increased sales volumes.
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