Travel to San Diego is picking up, but limitations on large events are one of the final hurdles in the way of tourism numbers climbing back to normal.
According to the Airport Authority, over the past month we have had multiple days where 20,000 or more passengers have checked through the TSA checkpoints at San Diego's airport. Those numbers are up from the worst days of the pandemic, but we're still at only about half the normal traffic for this time of the year. A typical day sees anywhere from 35,000 to 45,000 passengers, according to the Tourism Authority.
San Diego Tourism Authority found that travelers to the city right now are coming mostly by car for leisure from places in California and Arizona. Industry experts predict that once restrictions are loosened on June 15, more business travelers could be coming to San Diego by plane.
"We're waiting to see what happens with the business travelers and also with meetings and convention attendees. So it's slowly, step by step getting better, so we're more and more optimistic that things are looking up for San Diego," said Kerri Kapich with San Diego Tourism Authority.
While more travelers are good for the local economy, city leaders want to make sure that businesses and the city are taking precautions to ensure that residents and visitors stay safe.
"Where we're really still lagging behind in is the business travel part of this. What does the world look like post-pandemic? Are most people going to continue to use Zoom and do remote conferences, but also since the business travel is about large gatherings at our convention center often, how do we do that safely?" said City Council Member Marni Von Wilpert from District 5.
The state has recently released guidelines calling for vaccination verification or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of attending an indoor event with more than 5,000 people. Those same guidelines are strongly recommended for outdoor events with 10,000 or more attendees.
With business travel resuming, industry experts are also hoping that hotel occupancy will increase. Right now, San Diego Tourism Authority says San Diego's hotel occupancy rate is around 60% and an average hotel room is going for around $120 per night. Typically hotel occupancy at this time of the year in San Diego would be at about 85% and an average room would cost around $170.
In the short term, June 15 could signal a big wave in tourism that will certainly benefit San Diego's local economy, but the the Tourism Authority estimates it could take four or five years for the tourism industry to completely recover form the pandemic.