Spotlight on local tourism during National Travel and Tourism Week
The livelihoods of about 200,000 people in the San Diego region are tied directly to travel and tourism — a fact known all too well by the people that gathered in a suite at the top of the Wyndham Bayside resort on Wednesday.
“We know that the past two years have been extremely hard, but I’m proud to say that our industry has emerged stronger and more resilient than before," said Julie Coker, San Diego Tourism Authority president and CEO.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said he looks at the local economy as three-legged stool. There are the military and innovation and biotech sectors, both of which did pretty well during the pandemic; and then there’s tourism, which took a severe hit. Gloria said while it is rebounding, there is still a ways to go.
“Where we still struggle is with business travelers, folks who are still on Zoom, rather than traveling for a convention and international travel because of some of our existing travel restrictions," Gloria said.
Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), had an optimistic outlook about the prospects for tourism and travel.
“Coming up this summer, we’re hoping and believing this may be a record year for tourism," he said.
Rogers introduced a new word at Wednesday's event, describing a new trend that could help San Diego.
“This term we’ve created (is) called 'bleisure,' business and leisure mixed together. In fact, 90% of business travelers now say they intend to add leisure activities to their trips," Rogers said.
Data from AHLA shows that for every $100 a person spends on a hotel room, they spend $222 locally on restaurants, the arts and entertainment.
But as this rebound happens, Coker said it’s important to keep equity and inclusivity as focal points.
“We have an industry where you have the ability to have a career that allows you to move up without a degree ... It’s flexible, there are high-paying jobs, there are sustainable careers," she said.
And there is a measure of security as well, industry data shows San Diego hosts nearly 35.1 million visitors each year and is a top destination nationwide.
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