San Diego, the eighth-largest city in the country, is often referred to as “America’s Finest City” and for good reason! Known for its great hotels and accommodations, beautiful weather, pristine beaches, friendly people, and a plethora of entertainment, San Diego is a favorite travel destination for visitors across the globe.

Currently, San Diego has a very strong travel and tourism industry, with hotels performing particularly well. However, experts are concerned about the future of this industry. While a wave of new hotel properties is coming in the next few years, San Diego’s tourism draw is weaker than nearby competitors, such as Los Angeles.

Here are some of the city’s tourism sector’s top trends and statistics.

PRE & POST PANDEMIC TRENDS AND STATISTICS

  • San Diego has a great reputation as one of the top tourist destinations in the US, it’s one of the country’s top five leisure destinations.
  • The tourism industry is so big, one out of every eight local residents, or 194,000 San Diegans, are employed by businesses that serve San Diego’s visitor trade.
  • Tourism is the third-largest economic driver in S.D., generating $17.9 billion in regional economic impact and contributing to more than $895 million in transient occupancy taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
  • Pre-COVID-19, the industry generated about $848 million per year in state and local transient occupancy, sales and property taxes.
  • 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.
  • San Diego’s annual county fair is the largest fair in California, offering a variety of food, entertainment, exhibits, rides & games throughout the beautiful and historical Del Mar Fairgrounds in the oceanfront village of Del Mar.
  • Tourists are spending about 30 percent of their money on lodging and 70 percent goes to other types of businesses
  • The county welcomes almost 35 million visitors every year, and those visitors spend almost 10.8 billion dollars a year.
  • San Diego’s tourism industry is inching back from the crushing COVID-19 lock downs, but a complete recovery remains on the distant horizon.
  • San Diego hotels, especially those that double as convention centers, took the hardest hit during the pandemic.
  • San Diego visitorship in 2021 improved to 23.8 million visitors from 14.3 million in 2020 – still 32% shy of the 35.1 million visitors recorded in 2019.
  • The local beaches were the top draw for tourists, according to the tourism bureau’s general facts sheet, followed by Legoland, Old Town and the San Diego Zoo.
  • San Diego has a healthy economy that’s bolstered by its powerful tourism industry.
  • The area is also known as a great place to live due to its naturally beautiful coastline and the year-round warm weather.
  • The city has earned some exciting titles over recent years, which speak to its value for new business owners, including two from Forbes: “Most Inventive City in the World” and “Best Place to Launch a Startup.
  • Attractions are the biggest winners in terms of garnering tourist dollars. Museums and art-based venues also fared well with tourists.
  • San Diego’s world-class waterfront and award-winning international airport make it accessible from destinations across the globe.
  • At the San Diego Convention Center, 61 out-of-town conventions and trade shows were held, with an estimated attendance of 545,366 individuals. These events represent approximately $651 million in direct spend ing by convention delegates.
  • SAN has been named one of the safest airports in the country (Travel + Leisure Magazine) and one of the best airports for business travel.
  • San Diego airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the country with non-stop service to more than 50 destinations.
  • San Diego is one of the top 10 meeting and visitor destinations in the nation.
  • San Diego visitorship in 2021 improved to 23.8 million visitors from 14.3 million in 2020 – still 32% shy of the 35.1 million visitors recorded in 2019.
  • San Diego receives the majority of its visitors between June and August.
  • Currently, the country that sends the largest number of visitors to San Diego (aside from Mexico) is the U.K, followed by China, Germany and Australia.
  • San Diego hotels achieved occupancies of about 80% and average daily rates approaching $200 in 2018.
  • With an operating budget of $24.3 million, San Diego Tourism Authority sales and marketing generated 4.5 million room nights for the San Diego Region in FY 2021.
  • Trip Advisor ranked San Diego the No. 8 Most Popular U.S. travel destination for 2021.

MOTIVES AND HABITS

  • Visitor Purpose to San-Diego are 85% Leisure, 13% Business, 2% other purposes.
  • Convention attendees comprise only 6% of San Diego visitors, but make up 27% of all visitor spending.
  • Spending for overnight tourists averaged between $520 and $671 per person per day. The spending for tourists who didn’t stay overnight averaged between $102 and $308 per day.
  • Tourists consider San Diego not super expensive, especially when compared to Los Angeles or San Francisco. 

OTHER TRENDS

  • There are an estimated 12,300 short-term rentals currently in San Diego.
  • Mission Beach community gets more short-term rentals per capita than the rest of the city.
  • San Diego short-term rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo average 81% occupancy.
  • California’s tourism economy has made significant strides toward recovery amid devastating disruption and huge job losses over the past two years.
  • Other American travel destinations are gaining ground on California and making investments to inspire travel at the expense of California’s economy. 
  • San Diego weather is comfortable all year round, making it a welcoming place every season.
  • According to local San Diego journalists, the city has got serious parking issues. So bad, in fact, that the city has a website that deals specifically with parking within the city.
  • There are several online options for parking in San Diego as well as smartphone apps to use when you are on the go. 
  • Total visitation to San Diego is expected to reach 87% of 2019 visitation in 2022 with 30.7 million visitors.

REFERENCES

https://www.sandiegobusiness.org/sites/default/files/Tourism_0.pdf

https://linkbusiness.com/knowledge-center/Article/San-Diego-Tourism-Trends-and-What-They-Mean-to-Business-Owners

https://www.sdbj.com/news/2021/nov/08/strong-recovery-travel-sector/

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/businesses-that-fuel-san-diego-tourism-optimistic-about-rebounding-to-pre-pandemic-levels/2909508/

https://www.airdna.co/vacation-rental-data/app/us/california/san-diego/overview

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/economic-impact-report.pdf

https://www.aaa.com/travelguides/san%20diego-ca/san-diego-events

https://extendedstudies.ucsd.edu/UCSDExtension/media/UCSDExtensionsMedia/community-and-research/center-for-research-and-evaluation/Downtown-Partnership-Demographic-Study_1.pdf