Ten million fewer tourists will visit San Diego this year, report says

Lafayette Hotel San Diego
Posted at 3:54 PM, Apr 30, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego's hard hit tourism industry is still at least two years away from fully recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, a new forecast says.

The Tourism Economics report says 24.9 million people will visit San Diego in 2021, about 10 million below 2019 levels. The report, which the San Diego Tourism Authority released Friday, says hotel revenue dropped 54 percent in 2020. Last year, leisure and business travelers and conventions canceled en masse amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

"This has been 14 months of disaster," said Bob Rauch, who owns three hotels in San Diego. "We survived by going back to our partners, asking them for more money, and going to the lenders and asking for forgiveness and getting PPP one and PPP two money, and it’s painful."

But the work to stay afloat is not done, despite the governor planning to lift most Covid restrictions on June 15th. While the report says leisure travel is returning, business travel and conventions could continue to lag.

Kerri Kapich, chief operating officer of the Tourism Authority, noted many conventions are planned years in advance.

"So if you don’t know what you can do six months from now, what size group can you have, what are the requirements, is there testing protocols that need to happen or vaccination proof that needs to be shown, all of those things create uncertainty and that is what hurts the travel industry," she said.

The other headwind facing hotels: rates. The report projects even in 2023, the average cost for a hotel room night would be about $156. That’s about $10 dollars less than the 2019 levels. Meanwhile, operational costs, such as labor and insurance, continue to rise.

San Diego hotels are hiring. The Tourism Authority has set up an Instagram page, where new jobs are posted.