Despite the lingering impact of COVID-19 and other health-related issues that continue to cause some amount of uncertainty in travelers, people across the globe are keeping the San Diego region in their vacation plans.
The San Diego International Airport exceeded two million passengers in June – the most traveling through the area since December 2019. Year-over-year, passenger traffic at the airport was up more than 30 percent, according to statistics shared by the airport for June.
San Diego’s beaches, temperate climate, arts, conventions and sports offerings continue to draw visitors, said Julie Coker, president and CEO of San Diego Tourism Authority, which promotes and markets San Diego as a destination and supports the visitor industry.
In July, San Diego beat out all destinations in the west, Coker said, with higher occupancy than Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle.
“We are still watching the recession closely but from what we see, it is not impacting travel, hotel stays or people coming to enjoy all of our attractions and beaches, all of the great things we have,” Coker said. “San Diego continues to do well because of the natural attributes our city has. All indicators are looking very strong moving forward.”
Coker said that hotel revenue for this calendar year is also higher than it was in pre-pandemic 2019, by more than 10 percent.
“It’s great to see,” Coker said. “It’s been a couple of things, mostly Comic-Con week, when San Diego was actually the top destination in the country. When we look at hotel occupancy and the average daily rate, San Diego was No. 1 from July 17 to July 23. And we continue to do extremely well in all categories when it comes to hotel occupancy and average rate.”
But even before Comic-Con, which drew more than 100,000 attendees last month, travel activity was gaining ground. Airport officials report that the greatest number of people were served on Sunday, June 26 with more than 82,000 passengers going through SAN.
Kimberly Becker, president & CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, said that the airport has seen a steady increase in passenger numbers as demand for summer travel continues.
Celebrating a Milestone
“Reaching more than two million passengers is a milestone we can celebrate as our region continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Becker said.
Part of the increase in passengers is attributed in part to more available nonstop flights to domestic and international destinations, the airport authority said. In June of this year, San Diego International Airport offered 75 nonstop destinations, eight more routes than in June 2021.
Officials say that when compared to June 2019, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have increased the number of flights offered from San Diego to 10 key destinations. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, San Diego International Airport served more than 10 million passengers, a 72.8 percent increase in passenger traffic year over year.
Tourism Economics, a company that uses quantitative analysis and evidence-based advice to look at tourism dynamics as a way to help regions with marketing strategies and economic impact needs, earlier this month shared its most recent findings and forecast with the San Diego Tourism Authority.
Tourism Economics looked at key lodging sector indicators in the county in the early part of 2022, through July 9, and found that hotel demand has been up in general. The demand is expected to continue to rise with increases in international travel, business travel, leisure travel and group travel from Q3 to Q4 this year.
In its report, the group said it assumes that the spread of subvariants of COVID-19 “will result in higher levels of infections and hospitalizations, but that restrictions and individual behaviors will not substantially change as a result.”
It predicts progressive increases in international inbound travel, a normalization of corporate travel progressively through 2022 “as travel policies and budgets are revised,” and that leisure travel will continue to be boosted by factors that include improving employment levels and economic conditions, reduced public health concerns and “pent-up demand.”
Tourism Economics also said that it expects group meetings to return, but that larger events will be slower to recover.
Convention Center Business Back
While that may be true, the San Diego Convention Center is recovering after COVID-19 and is back to nearly full swing.
“For the first time since 2019, it truly feels like summer in San Diego again,” said Rip Rippetoe, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center.
“Demand for in-person events at the San Diego Convention Center has never been greater,” he added. “In the year since the convention center reopened, we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors to some of the most premier events in the country. A diverse calendar of events this August make for another great month of economic impact across the region.”
Several conventions booked for later this summer and into the fall expect to draw 3,000 or more attendees to the San Diego Convention Center. Those include the private Global Business Travel Association this week (Aug. 14-17), the Zero Emissions Summit and Expo from Sept. 8-9 and the National Safety Council Annual Congress & Exhibition from Sept. 16-22.
Coming events that are open to the public at the San Diego Convention Center include Art San Diego 2022 from Sept. 9-11 (expected to draw 10,000), the San Diego Fall Home Show from Sept. 10-11 (7,000 expected). Twitchcon 2022 in October, which is not open to the public, is expected to draw 25,000 to San Diego.
“In San Diego, summer goes through October,” said Colleen Anderson, executive director of the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, the group that supports the San Diego Tourism Authority and other revenue-generating destination marketing efforts in the county.
Anderson said there will be major crowds coming to San Diego for the San Diego Bayfair at Mission Bay in mid-September and the Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival in November, the three-day music event with Zac Brown Band, Kings of Leon and Gwen Stefani headlining.