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Tourism Will Shine Brightly in Year 2000

Welcome to the Year 2000. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill, what about the Y2K problem? I think the only Y2K problem that exists is the flu. It’s the worst in recent memory.

Now that the fear is gone, let’s get on with our lives. Everyone predicts the same economic roller-coaster ride that existed in l999 will still be running full steam in 2000.

One of the areas that has been talked about a lot lately is the generation of transient occupancy taxes in the region. The amount of money the visitors leave behind when they go home will increase to an all-time high this year. Total visitor spending is expected to grow to $4.9 billion, and the number of overnight guests will increase to 14.9 million from 14.7 million last year.

With the East Village project looming ahead, one of the big concerns is where will the money to pay off the debt come from , will tourism continue to grow? Reint Reinders, CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “The economy is strong, personal income is growing and as a result consumer confidence is high. Conditions like these create the perfect climate for increased spending on travel.”

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Nearly 50 percent of our visitors come from within California, and the state’s economy is booming, according to all economic forecasts. Besides San Diego, Anaheim and San Francisco are hot markets, and they feed us lots of visitors. So everything looks very good.

At home, the hotel industry has never looked better. During 2000, the supply of rooms will climb to 47,000, and the room occupancy will remain stable at 73 percent. The key to increasing the transient occupancy tax, besides the number of visitors, is the room rate; it is predicted to climb 4 percent to $103-$107 per night.

The other half of our growth comes from the convention market. The San Diego Convention Center already has booked 51 conventions and trade shows for 2000, representing 477,000 room nights with an attendance of 261,000 conventioneers for an annual economic impact of $248 million. That marks the ninth straight year convention attendance exceeded 250,000 attendees and $200 million in revenue.

As the opponents begin to search for ways to derail the Padres ballpark and the adjacent East Village project, it is fair to say that whining about poor tourism won’t work. If the whine-and-cheese society would quit tying up the project with court challenges, the hotels could have broken ground and would be months ahead of schedule. It was great to see the judge last week dismiss the latest Henderson challenge to proceeding with the site preparations and planning of the various facets of the project.

I guess all those obstructions we have lurking around in dark corners should remember this little saying: “Blowing out someone else’s candle will not make yours shine brighter.”

To the balance sheet.

Credit: To Rich and Gaby Sulpizio for their spectacular donation of $1.1 million to CSU San Marcos. The money is earmarked for the university’s capital campaign for the construction of a new library. The gift put the campaign over the top for its goal of $2.5 million. Yes, Rich is the president of Qualcomm, Inc. and their stock is in outer space, but many people would keep their wealth and not share it. Rich and Gaby deserve a huge round of applause and our gratitude. The answer to the question, “What makes San Diego America’s Finest City?,” is people like Rich and Gaby Sulpizio.

Credit: To the San Diego Chargers for winning the American Association of Blood Banks National Award of Merit for outstanding contributions to the San Diego Blood Bank’s donor recruitment program. The Chargers have partnered with the Blood Bank since l979 to sponsor the annual Charger Blood Drive. At last year’s program Nov. 23, the drive collected 2,203 pints of blood in one day. Talk about community involvement, this 20-year commitment is outstanding. Go, Chargers!

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