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Tourism Up in San Diego For First Time Since 2008

Aired 12/22/11 on KPBS News.

Despite a continued sluggish economy, tourism picked up this year.

Close to 31 million people visited San Diego in 2011, about a million more than last year, according to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. It's the first time visits to San Diego have increased since the recession began in 2008.

A killer whale performs at SeaWorld in San Diego on Sept. 16, 2007.
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Above: A killer whale performs at SeaWorld in San Diego on Sept. 16, 2007.

Visitor spending was also up in 2011, by 5 percent, to reach $7.5 million.

SeaWorld, one of San Diego's top tourist destinations also had a good year. David Koontz, director of communications for SeaWorld, said the park saw double digit attendance growth in 2011 compared to the previous year.

"So we’re very, very pleased about how this year is ending,” Koontz said. He attributed the growth to the park’s new Turtle Reef exhibit and the new Shamu show.

Still, San Diego tourism hasn't fully recovered since its peak years of 2007 and 2008. And Joe Terzi, president of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he's concerned about the outlook for next year considering the uncertain economy and weak consumer confidence.

“We’ve throttled back our projections," he said. "We still think that things are going to be positive, we’re just not sure how much.”

Terzi said tourism brings $8 billion into the San Diego economy each year, and supports an estimated 160,000 jobs.

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