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San Diego expects 2014 to be vintage year for tourism

It should come as no surprise San Diego is the No. 1 destination in the United States this year for people looking to vacation at a beach. Priceline.com puts the beaches here ahead of such other sandy spots as Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Miami and Maui.

“This past winter’s ‘polar vortex’ effect kept many would-be travelers at home, and now many destinations are working extra hard with amazing deals to lure spring and summer tourists,” said Brian Ek, travel editor for Priceline.com.

And vacationers are ready to spend this year. After cutting back during the Great Recession and its lingering consequences, more families are opening up their wallets to do something special.

American Express reports 75 percent of Americans will hit the roads this summer on vacation, up from 69 percent last year and 59 percent in 2012. And, average consumers expect to spend $1,246 this year for their getaway, up from $1,145 last year.

“Travelers are doing their homework and taking more time to plan their trips, ensuring they get the best deal possible without sacrificing those little extras that make their trip special,” said Claire Bennett of American Express Travel.

Tourism, of course, is big business in San Diego County. According to the San Diego Tourism Authority, there were more than 33 million visitors here last year. The numbers are split evenly between those people who drive down for a day trip from Orange and Los Angeles counties and travelers who stay overnight at a hotel.

And, tourism is the top industry and revenue generator in the county, with an economic impact of more than $18.7 billion a year and supporting nearly 166,000 jobs. San Diego County cities last year collected $203 million in transient occupancy tax revenues from visitors who stayed in hotels.

How people arrive in San Diego for their vacation varies. About 8.8 million air passengers arrived through Lindbergh Field. Amtrak brought 750,000 people by rail. But, the vast majority of travelers came here by car, with nearly 60 million vehicles arriving from the north and east.

Bottom line, the 2014 boom in tourism, here and across the country, is probably one of the best examples of a rebounding economy. During the Great Recession when people were worried about their jobs and personal finance, it was easy to cut back or eliminate vacations. After all, a vacation is probably at the top of the list of discretionary spending.

This summer will be a clear example of how Americans are feeling better about the nation’s economy and their own financial situation.

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Bob Rauch 12:01pm June 7, 2014

Good job, George. We will in fact be seeing record visitors and they will be paying more for hotel rooms which means more tax revenue for San Diego.