Tourism up...sort of

SD visitor industry improving, but still lags pre-recession levels

The hotel business is picking up in San Diego, according to Smith Travel Research. October occupancy was 70.2% vs 66.1% a year earlier. Year to date, occupancy was 73.2% vs. 70.6% for the same period a year ago. However, tourism expert Jerry Morrison of Encinitas points out that San Diego still lags pre-recssion 2007 levels. October 2012 occupancy of 70.2% trails the 73.4% of October 2007. Average daily room rate lagged $132.89 to $135.99 and revenue per available room was down 6.5% to $93.33. Other West Coast markets San Francisco, Orange County and Los Angeles all did better than San Diego, as did the nation. San Diego occupancy in October of this year also lagged San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles, and the nation.

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Could it be that the bloom is off San Diego as a prime vacation destination? The ambiance for many visitors may not be what it once was. One big attraction that I think was overlooked by the locals was the proximity to Mexico, i.e. the ability to head to TJ and feel fairly safe while having a foreign "adventure." Now, for good reasons, the tourists are staying away from TJ and that may mean many are also staying away from SD. Overpriced attractions such as Sea World. Legoland, the Zoo, and the Safari Park may not help either.

Visduh: Definitely, the Mexico propinquity was a major tourist draw to San Diego. I once knew what percentage of tourism it accounted for, but I have forgotten. It may be in a column I wrote a few years ago about the collapse of TJ tourism. Other things have happened to San Diego: 1. Golf has declined as a sport; 2. Beach pollution is a problem; 3. The attractions may not be as big a draw as they once were, as you point out. Definitely, San Diego is not doing nearly as well as LA, the Bay Area, and Orange County in tourism. Best, Don Bauder

I can certainly understand the attraction of San Francisco, a major international city, but Orange County? And LA? What are we talking--Disneyland and Hollywood & Vine? That is what is pulling tourists from San Diego?

Javajoe: I agree with you that Disneyland is a tacky place, appealing to the worst of human instincts. However, it IS a tourist draw. Also, I know many tourists who love to take bus tours into Beverly Hills to see the homes of movie stars. The whole idea is repugnant to me, but it does draw tourists. Best, Don Bauder

Don Bauder, how many times have you been to Disneyland. Did you ever take your kids there? If so , what did they think?

tomjohnston: We took our kids to Disneyland once and they thought it was as cornball as my wife and I did. They certainly did not enjoy waiting in lines, either. Best, Don Bauder

Universal Studios, Magic Mountain, Hurricane Harbor, Raging Waters, Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, The Queen Mrry, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussaud's, Grauman's Chinese, The Hollywood Sign, The Hollywood Museum, The Hollywood Wax Museum, Griffith Observatory, The Getty (Malibu and West L.A.), MOCA, La Brea Tarpits, LACMA, LAC Museum of Natural History, The Huntington, The Norton Simon, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Movie and TV Studios and shows, oh and let's not forget the beaches (a few more than in San Diego). Need I go on???

tomjohnston: I agree that the Getty and Norton Simon are great. We enjoyed tarpits. I wouldn't go near Rodeo Drive or a wax museum. However, I agree that the tourist attractions you list are probably taking business from San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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