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San Diego Economy Feeling Squeeze From Coronavirus

San Diego Convention Center on Jan. 14, 2020.
Erik Anderson
San Diego Convention Center on Jan. 14, 2020.
San Diego's economy is already being affected by the coronavirus situation, even though there's only one presumptive positive case in the county.

San Diego’s economy is already being hurt by concern about the impact of the coronavirus.

Several large and small associations canceled San Diego conventions this week and that could hit the local hospitality industry hard.


San Diego’s Tourism Authority says the hospitality industry employs 200,000 people and generates $11 billion worth of direct economic activity every year. There’s also another $18 billion of indirect economic impacts.

That helps explain why local officials are so concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 situation.

San Diego Economy Feeling Squeeze From Coronavirus

RELATED: Convention Center Seeing Cancellations Amid Coronavirus Fears; Comic-Con Still On

This week the American Association for Cancer Research canceled their March convention, an event that brings 23,000 people to San Diego.


Experimental Biology, the Parking Expo and American Medical Group Association also canceled San Diego events at the convention center.

“We’re seeing significant cancellations,” said Joe Terzi of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “We’re in kind of the middle of our major convention season in San Diego. It usually runs from February to May and June. And, we’ve had some cancellations that are really going to hurt.”

Tourism officials are working with clients considering canceling events to see if those conventions can be rescheduled or postponed. Convention center officials also said they are working with their clients on alternatives, such as live streaming and changing food services to minimize contact.

RELATED: San Diego Colleges Move To Online Learning Over Coronavirus Concerns

There are other worries for San Diego as well. President Trump has floated the idea of closing the border because of the virus. That could have an immediate and dramatic economic impact.

“I think that would cause serious problems,” said Alan Gin, a University of San Diego economist. “A lot of people live south of the border and commute to work here in San Diego, so there would be some disruptions where commuting is concerned. And then a lot of people south of the border will shop here to our retailers, particularly in the south bay would be negatively impacted if the border is closed for any significant length of time.”

Local officials said the question is no longer whether the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact, but rather how long that impact will last and how deep it will be.

San Diego Economy Feeling Squeeze From Coronavirus
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

Corrected: April 1, 2023 at 6:37 PM PDT
KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this story