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Record Highs Predicted for Local Tourism

San Diego Will

Open 2,000 Hotel Rooms, Bringing Total to 47,000

With an attractive economic climate expected for the first year of the millennium, San Diego’s tourism business is likely to reach record highs, industry insiders say.

About $4.9 billion in visitor spending is the figure predicted by the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau for the county’s third largest industry in 2000.

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ConVis expects the number of overnight guests to total 14.9 million, up from 14.7 million in 1999.

The bright prospects continue to be dependent on the predictable factors, said La Jolla-based hotel analyst Jerry Morrison.

“If the economy stays strong and the stock market stays strong, even if it’s in the tech sector, I think you’re going to see a very, very good year,” Morrison said.

Hearty national and state economies bode well for San Diego and the tourism industry, said Sal Giametta, vice president of community relations for ConVis.

“We’re very confident about 2000,” Giametta said. “When the economy is strong and personal incomes are high, consumer confidence is also high , and that translates into people spending their discretionary incomes on things like travel and vacations and the like.”

Optimism also continues on high, according to the 10th Annual Deloitte & Touche/San Diego Business Journal Economic Outlook Survey, which polled 21 leaders in the tourism industry.

Eleven of those surveyed said that the economic condition of the local tourism industry would likely stay the same, and the remaining 10 respondents said it would perform better.

When asked how the national economy will fare in 2000 compared to 1999, half the respondents said it would be “about the same,” while the other half said it would be better. Only one respondent predicted that it would be worse.

When asked to compare their expectations for the San Diego economy in 2000 with ’99, 52 percent of the respondents said it would be better. Five percent predicted it would be worse, and 43 percent don’t expect any changes.

ConVis predicts that room rates are likely to increase about 4 percent from $103 to $107. Morrison places the room rate between about $106 and $108.

San Diego will open about 2,000 hotel rooms in the upcoming year, making its supply about 47,000, Giametta said.

Although the number of rooms will increase, demand should also go up, Morrison said.

Of those surveyed, all agreed their sales would go up in 2000, compared to ’99. On the topic of net income, only one respondent expected to see the same figures as in ’99; the remaining 20 said that profits would likely go up.

Nationally, the tourism industry will also do well, predicted respondents to the survey. Compared to ’99, 48 percent said that the industry will fare better, 48 percent said it will be “about the same,” and 5 percent said it would perform worse.

According to statistics from the Travel Industry Association, domestic and international travel spending rose 5.2 percent in ’99 to $520.7 billion.

In 2000, that figure is expected to rise another 5.5 percent to $549.2 billion, according to TIA.

Weekend trips have increased 70 percent between 1988 and 1996 and now account for more than half of all travel in the United States, TIA said. In San Diego, the tourism industry focuses on drive markets in California and Arizona, and considers those trips particularly important, according to ConVis.

ConVis began in earnest to cultivate a family travel market this past year. It held a first-time family travel forum in town in the summer.

A major reason for paying attention to San Diego as a family destination arrived in March, with the opening of Legoland California, located in Carlsbad. Giametta said the park’s first year has gone well, bringing San Diego increased popularity in the tourism market.

For the convention market, however, several developments have made headlines this year. Particularly spotlighted were the dealings of the 1,200-room Campbell Shipyard’s hotel being built next to the expanding Convention Center.

The year 2000 is the last full year before the Convention Center’s 900,000-square-foot expansion is completed in September 2001. It is expected to bring in larger conventions that will generate bigger amounts of visitor spending.

The expanded center could also accommodate overlapped scheduling of larger conventions, allowing fewer gaps of slow times between convention business.

In the upcoming year, the city’s hotels will not have the bookings it would have had if the Convention Center’s expansion had been approved and finished sooner, said Karima Zaki-Pope, general manager of the Doubletree Mission Valley and the 1999-2000 chairman of the board for ConVis.

“We are going to feel (those effects) without a doubt,” Zaki-Pope said. An important issue is locally based Manchester Resorts’ development of the Campbell site property, which would be the third convention center headquarter hotel, she said.

As of December ’99, 51 conventions have been booked for the Convention Center for 2000. According to the Convention Center estimates, those conventions will bring in 261,000 visitors who will book 477,000 room nights and have an economic impact of $248 million.

Marketing for the expanded center will be difficult until ground is broken. “Our hands are tied until then,” Zaki-Pope said.

“We’re anxiously awaiting for that issue to be resolved, and for the shovels to actually go into the ground, so we can start selling at a maximum, optimum level,” she said.

San Diego Convention Center Corp., which manages the center, recently announced that it will guarantee convention and trade show space and locked-in rates 10 years in advance. No other facility in the United States makes that offer, a representative said.

Until Jan. 1, the Convention Center had contracted space up to two and a half years in advance.

“Most of our clients sign contracts with convention hotels early in the planning stages,” said Carol Wallace, corporation president and chief operating officer.

“This new process gives planners the peace of mind that they have the space in the center before they make other legally binding agreements.”

The corporation’s management also announced changes they say will streamline the contract process. They rearranged the license agreement, moving varied rules and policies to a separate booklet.

Jobs Program Graduates Potential Employees

Strive San Diego, a local job-readiness program, graduated 27 persons last month, the largest class since its inception more than a year ago.

The program helps long-term unemployed and hard-to-employ persons get back into the job market through intensive “attitude adjustment” training. Since its inception, the program has helped 242 people find and retain a job.


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