Forget June gloom. As summer rolls in this year, San Diego’s hospitality industry is in a rather celebratory frame of mind.
Propelled by strong showings this spring and during the Memorial Day weekend, businesses ranging from tourist attractions to service organizations have an upbeat forecast.
Specific tourist figures are tough to predict, said Sal Giametta, vice president of community relations at the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“What we go on is what we hear from a couple of other sources, both regionally and nationally,” Giametta explained.
Among those organizations is the Travel Association of America, which recently reported that this summer will be another “robust” season.
Its “Summer 2000 Travelometer” , classifying a “person-trip” as traveling more than 50 miles one way , predicts that Americans will take 237 million of these trips during June, July and August. The projections are up 3 percent over last summer.
California ranked high as a desired destination this year, according to TIA’s research. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed named it, second to 34 percent who said Florida is a desirable destination.
Giametta said ConVis also speaks to different hotels and other cities to ascertain the summer’s business.
This could be significant, Giametta said. It means San Diego should get “our fair share” of the 3 percent increase in summer travel, he said.
Another factor discussed in the industry was the rising price of gasoline, a particular concern for destinations such as San Diego that depend on markets within driving distance , Los Angeles, Orange County, Arizona and Nevada.
Air travel’s escalating cost is another concern.
Neither one seems to be affecting the consumer significantly, Giametta said.
Travel organizations such as TIA and AAA report that their surveys find consumers are not concerned about those costs.
“Again, I think you can attribute it to the fact that the economy is doing so well and people are doing so well and everybody’s working, that you tend to worry less about those things and simply consider them a part of the cost of your travel,” Giametta said.
SeaWorld San Diego is also looking forward to a bright summer.
Fifty percent of SeaWorld’s business takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The aquatic theme park expects 4 million visitors in 2000.
“We feel good about the year so far,” said Bob Tucker, spokesman for SeaWorld. “If spring break is any indication of what our summer’s going to be like, we’re looking at some good attendance,” he said.
Tucker didn’t disclose specific attendance figures for the park, which is owned by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. However, he did say that the visitor count is up.
He attributes the positive summer outlook to the park’s rollout of new attractions, most notably a theater show, Pirates 4-D, which involves sensory special effects.
This is the second summer for Buster’s Beach House and Longboard Bar in Seaport Village.
The ’99 season was slower because it was a soft launch for the restaurant, one of 11 restaurants owned by Aloha Restaurants Inc. in Irvine. Previously a Jolly Rogers, Buster’s had been revamped into the new surf-style concept that March.
This year, it’s clear sailing, said general manager Scott Evans.
Evans is taking the weekends as indicators of summer business. The restaurant will likely see a 25-35 percent increase in sales, he said.
For Ann Wilson, owner and operator of La Jolla Walking Tours, cheerful predictions are motivated as much by the area’s real estate development as the fact the summer’s begun.
Bookings indicate that business will be up 50 percent, said Wilson, who launched the La Jolla company in 1992. It’s now a part of the Conference Touring of San Diego, Inc., which Wilson bought in 1996.
Wilson, whose target demographics are couples 45 years of age or older, mentioned the development of some condominium and retirement communities. They often bring her business in the way of prospective residents, she said.
However, during the summer, 75 percent of her business comes from tourists, Wilson said. The remaining business comes from the current or prospective residents.
During the nine off-season months, tourists make up 50 percent of her business, she said.
At Carlsbad Mineral Water & Spa, the day spa business will likely grow 45-50 percent this summer, said Ludvik Grigoras, who owns and operates the spa with his wife, Veronica.
Grigoras attributes it in part to an expansion of the spa, but said new hotels have provided an additional boost.
His spa benefits from visitors coming to the beaches of Carlsbad and its surrounding areas, but wanting other activities, Grigoras said.