Businesses That Fuel San Diego Tourism Optimistic About Rebounding to Pre-Pandemic Levels

According to the tourism authority, business and international travel have been slower to rebound in San Diego

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Hotels and restaurants play a major role in San Diego’s tourism industry. Both have been hit hard during the pandemic and are starting to see things turn around.

Some shared their experiences as they look forward to the future.

San Diego’s warm climate, parks, beaches and attractions are featured in a new national ad aiming to attract more people back to the region.

"We’re finally starting to see that return to those activities and we’re super excited about it,” San Diego Tourism Authority chief operating officer Kerri Kapich said.

The San Diego Tourism Authority estimates the industry lost 20 years of economic gains since the start of the pandemic. Visitor spending in the county hit $905 million in March 2019 and it dropped to $371 million two years later.

"We still have a ways to go. We’ve been saying 2024-2025 is the time period before we get back to 2019 levels," Kapich said.

Downtown’s Donut Bar -- known for its signature sweet treats -- felt at times, even they were being glazed over.

"It was rough," Donut Bar owner Santiago Campa said. "There were some scary, scary days, no doubt about it."

There’s been an adjustment from eateries to hotels.

At the Omni San Diego -- located next to Petco Park -- they’re making new investments in preparation for baseball season. Like adding a new café. During the pandemic, they also learned to adjust to guests' needs.

"Guests still want to be cared for. They want their room cleaned on a daily basis, they want to be able to dine and have breakfast in bed, but maybe they’re not as comfortable having a room service server push the cart into the room and come in and set up that china, glass and silver," Omni San Diego general manager Craig Martin said.

The Omni is offering room service delivery in to-go packaging to allow for more personal space.

San Diego County’s hotel occupancy was at nearly 80% in April 2019. It dipped to nearly 26% a year later and last week was back up to more than 77%, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority.

We’re also seeing more people willing to hop on a plane like KaeLynn and Michael Blair, visiting San Diego from Utah.

"This is actually the first time we’ve flown during the pandemic," Michael Blair said. "We were a little apprehensive."

"We love San Diego. Why not come, enjoy the sights and contribute what we can to help them grow?" KaeLynn Blair said.

As businesses travel down the road toward recovery, they’re optimistic that the "new normal" will be just as rewarding.

"I really think San Diego is going to pull through.” Campa said. “We’re too strong not to.”

According to the tourism authority, business and international travel have been slower to rebound.

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