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TOURISM — Tourism Is Up Despite Convention Slowdown

Sails Pavilion Reopens With More Exhibit Space

With a much-needed boost in March, the health of San Diego tourism is rosy so far in 2000, despite a decrease in convention business.

The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau recently released its visitor index, which overall gauged a 2.4 percent increase compared to the same time period last year.

It was boosted by a particularly strong March, according to ConVis. Overnight visitors increased 3.3 percent and spending increased 6.5 percent. Hotel occupancy was 79.8 percent, a 2 percent increase.

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However, convention business decreased during the quarter compared to the same period in 1999, ConVis reported.

From January though March, there was an 18 percent drop in convention and trade shows, the 64,200 visitors reflected a 14.4 percent decrease in delegate attendance, the 113,889 in delegate room nights was an 8.5 percent decline, and the $50.7 million in expenditures was a 14.7 percent decrease.

Reint Reinders, president and CEO of ConVis, attributes the lower numbers to the delay in the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. It resulted in a loss in already-booked business, Reinders said.

Although delegate attendance and spending had increased in January , 5.8 percent and 19.9 percent increases, respectively, compared to the same month in 1999 , the number dipped sharply in February. Attendance was down 47.8 percent and expenditures were down 40.4 percent.

For March, the five trade shows marked a 16.7 percent decrease. The 20,900 visitors were an 11.8 percent decrease, the 51,674 delegate room nights was a 12.9 percent decrease and the delegate expenditures of $25,671,000 were a 17.5 percent decrease.

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All Aboard: Delays with the convention center expansion may have been tough on the local tourism industry, but many community and hospitality leaders were on hand to celebrate the reopening of the newly enclosed Sails Pavilion.

The $10 million project means the convention center adds 90,000 square feet to its exhibit-space inventory.

Workers installed a lighting system, a cooling and heating system, and an industry-standard trade show floor.

Look for another “milestone,” as dubbed by the Convention Center Corp., to take place May 30: The last piece of steel will be erected.

Checking In: A new 150-seat restaurant is in the works at San Diego Paradise Point Resort in Mission Bay. According to a representative for the hotel, the establishment will be called Baleen and will feature al fresco dining, with stone floors and chandeliers of a hanging-monkey design. Rancho Bernardo-based Very Special Events is managing a tour for L’Oreal Skincare. The Radisson Hotel La Jolla recently picked up the President’s Award from its Minneapolis-based parent company, Radisson Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

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Northern Highlights: The San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau recently reported it generated $35.6 million in total visitor spending last year. It’s a 7 percent increase over spending in 1998, the bureau said.

Revenue from meetings and association business increased 51 percent over 1998 to $1.3 million.

The bureau’s research revealed its top three cities of competition are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The popular months to visit are March, April, June and July.

Top attractions and activities were the beaches, San Diego Zoo, shopping, the San Diego Wild Animal Park and SeaWorld San Diego.

The attractions were followed by the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Carlsbad’s Flower Fields and Legoland California.

The deadline for the next tourism & hospitality column is May 25. Rodrigues can be reached at (858) 277-6359, ext. 107, or via E-mail at trodrigues@sdbj.com.

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