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For hotels, return of conventions can only do so much

Posted at 4:32 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 20:59:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego has reopened and tourists are once again packing area hotels on weekends. But weekdays are a different story.

On Tuesday, tourism leaders came together with a message that travel is safe and that hotels are ready.

“When you're in the hotel business and hospitality business, you're here to serve, you're here to take care of each other, take care of the customers, and the employees love being back,” said Peter Strebel, president of Omni hotels.

Strebel says like many San Diego hotels, the Omni is upwards of 90 percent full on weekends. In normal times, area hotels also stay that busy on weekdays. But despite the economy reopened, hotel occupancy is dropping to 50 percent during the week.

Julie Coker, president of the San Diego Tourism Authority, said for things to be fully recovered, conventions, business travel, meetings at hotels and international travelers all need to return in force.

“It's time for us to get our economy back starting to work, and so we need to get back out and travel, and we need to get back out to meet at conventions,” she said.

While conventions have come back — and one this week will draw 7,000 — attendance is about 25 to 40 percent pre-pandemic levels. Through June 30, 2022, the convention center has booked 75 events.

Meanwhile, jobs in San Diego County’s leisure and hospitality field -- which includes hotels, restaurants and attractions -- remain about 20 percent below where they were before Covid - or by about 42 thousand jobs.

"This city has a great package of hotel rooms within walking distance to the convention center, so you've got a lot going here,” Strebel said. "This will get be on track real fast.”

Strebel said he doesn't expect a full recovery until 2023. While he says Zoom meetings may forever curtail business travel, he sees an increase in larger meetings and conventions making up for that.