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San Diego
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Who Is a SoCal Visitor Is Tricky to Establish

Visitor numbers give a good idea of how Southern California’s tourism markets stack up. But each city measures the figure in a slightly different way.

Nationally, a visitor is considered to be anyone who travels more than 50 miles from home for purposes other than work or school and does not spend more than six months each year in the area.

That makes Southern California a complex market.

Orange County residents who take weekend getaways in Santa Barbara are tourists. Angelenos who head to Palm Springs are tourists. And San Diegans who spend the weekend at Disneyland are tourists.

By the broadest measure, Orange County has about 44 million visitors a year. But more than half, about 24 million, are day-trippers. That leaves about 20 million overnight visitors, mostly from other parts of California and other states.

Los Angeles counted 24.3 million overnight visitors last year and doesn’t track day-trippers. About 10 percent of visitors actually are coming from other parts of the Southland, including the Inland Empire, Ventura or Orange County.

San Diego had 26.7 million visitors in 2004 , 11 million of those were day visitors, leaving 15.6 million who spent the night.

San Diego’s numbers are confounded by another factor: visitors from Mexico, who often come to shop for as little as a few hours.

And San Diego’s numbers don’t even begin to address those who cross the border in search of work , either legally or illegally.

“Those visitors don’t fit in the ‘domestic overnight’ visitor profile, but they’re not the traditional international visitor either,” said Skip Hull, vice president at San Diego-based CIC Research, which does visitor studies for convention and visitor bureaus as well as the federal government.

, Sandi Cain

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