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Business travelers returning to San Diego, tourism industry almost fully recovered from pandemic

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 20:58:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A new report indicates that San Diego's tourism industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic, has almost completely climbed out of that hole. Furthermore, San Diego is recovering faster than many other destination markets, particularly when it comes to business travel.

“We have made a lot of progress. San Diego tourism has been on the road to recovery. We’re seeing really good results compared to where we’ve been," said Kerri Kapich, COO of the San Diego Tourism Authority.

The report issued by the American Hotel and Lodging Association suggests that total hotel revenue in San Diego in 2022 is projected to be around $3.5 billion, up $400 million from 2019, the year before the pandemic. San Diego is also one of only five markets in the top 15 to see both business and leisure travel top pre-pandemic levels.

While experts say a key element of the revenue increase is rising room rates, San Diego hotels say business has been rapidly improving. "As you move to the back half of the year, we’re really seeing robust convention business come back and group business come back," said Omni San Diego general manager Craig Martin. "People want to get together. They’re getting together for the first time in two years.”

Martin says San Diego's booming biotech industry is leading more companies to choose San Diego to host conferences. Combined with strong leisure travel and the many big events held in recent months downtown, the Omni has had several record-breaking months in 2022. “We’ve done a tremendous amount of work within our community, with our local officials to make sure the destination shows well, performs well, and is a great place to visit," Martin said.

San Diego is also recovering with business travel faster than other cities that compete for those dollars, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Kapich says that's partly due to international travel, which has been down since the start of the pandemic, only accounts for 11% of San Diego's tourists, leaving San Diego less susceptible to the slow recovery of tourism from other countries.

The one area still lagging is attendance at conventions. A San Diego Convention Center spokesperson says that while the number of events booked has returned to pre-pandemic levels, attendance at those events remains down by as much as 30%. However, based on current bookings, they project that convention activity in San Diego could return or top pre-pandemic levels by 2023 or 2024.