Tourism in San Diego continues to suffer from COVID-19 pandemic
San Diego’s tourism industry is recovering from crushing lockdowns from COVID-19, but a full recovery is on the horizon.
The San Diego Convention Center is a key indicator of the performance of the hospitality industry. If people come to San Diego on business, chances are the hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses are doing well.
The convention center was one of the first victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t had a convention since spring 2020,” said Todd Gloria, mayor of San Diego. “Until it resumes in August 2021. During this interim period, what you saw was something unprecedented.”
The facility served as a homeless shelter and then a refuge for migrant girls detained as they attempted to cross the US-Mexico border.
Gloria said it was a public structure that could not remain closed as long as there was a public need.
However, the reallocation of the taxpayer-owned structure meant that it did not generate tax revenue for 17 months.
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That’s why San Diego officials celebrated the establishment’s first convention last August.
“It was good news for me because these are visitors who come to town, stay in our hotels, spend money in restaurants,” said Gloria. “It’s dollars that flow from those hotel room checks into city coffers that I in turn use to pave our streets, pay our police officers and keep our libraries open.”
The center will eventually host more than a dozen conventions by the end of the year, but these are not conventions from years past.
“There are a lot of meetings and conventions going on right now, their attendance is around 40% on average of what they were in 2019,” said Julie Coker, director of the San Diego Tourism Authority.
Congresses that have taken place generally have a virtual component for those who cannot or do not want to make the trip.
They also have a COVID-19 vaccination or testing policy that the state requires for large gatherings.
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Coker is optimistic 2022 will be a better year, but she’s also realistic.
“It won’t be an overnight fix,” Coker said. “We’re definitely in the long haul before tourism returns, but we certainly know San Diego is in a much better position than other cities and we’re set for a great comeback.”
The closures have been devastating for the hospitality industry. The tourism sector generated more than 200,000 jobs. The hotel industry currently employs only 165,000 workers.
A survey of companies in the CoPilot consumer group found the California economy to be the 10th most affected by concerns about COVID-19.
Analysis by the United States Bureau of Economic found that the amount of economic activity generated by the state’s arts, entertainment and recreation sectors was down 37.7%. Accommodation and food are down 21%.