SAN DIEGO -- California's most southerly major city and its
surrounding area hope to ride a wave of positive publicity -- most
recently from the NFL Super Bowl game in January -- to another
strong tourism year in 1998.
Sal Giametta, the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau vice
president, communications, whose area encompasses San Diego County
as well as the city, said, "We had a great year in the last fiscal
year, with hotel occupancies high and record average per diems. And
we're expecting another banner year."
The area began to reap a national and worldwide publicity
bonanza, according to Giametta, with its selection as the site of
the Republican National Convention in 1996. The wave reached an
entirely different audience with the 1997 Extreme Games, sponsored
by the ESPN cable network. And the 1998 Denver Broncos/Green Bay
Packers match-up in the Super Bowl gave further massive impetus not
just in the U.S. but in dozens of countries abroad to consumer
interest in the city.
Even El Nino
cooperated, according to Giametta. Although the periodic weather
condition later brought heavy rainfall to San Diego, it held off
long enough for the Super Bowl telecast to show nothing but blue
skies and warm beaches. "Talk about timing," Giametta said. "If El
Nino had hit 13 days earlier, the effects on the game, and on the
perception of prospective visitors, might have been quite
There were, by bureau statistics, some 14.4 million overnight
visitors to San Diego in 1997, contributing $4.4 billion to the
county's public coffers. The county's 45,000 rooms (30,000 of them
in San Diego proper) ran at an average of 71.5% occupied throughout
1997, and the per diem topped $85.
"We feel that we're well positioned this year to maintain the
upward trend," Giametta said. "California, from which so much of
our business comes, was the last state hit by the recession, and it
has become the last to recover. But the recovery is on, and we
expect it to boost our numbers."
San Diego County's position as a prime family vacation
destination -- earned because of its world class zoo, the Wild
Animal Park, SeaWorld of California, its beaches and water sports,
museums and parks -- will be further enhanced next year by the
opening of Legoland USA, in Carlsbad, a few miles north of
downtown. "We're excited about the prospect for Legoland, which is
due to open in the spring of 1999," Giametta said. "It fits
perfectly with this area's family vacation orientation."
San Diego's airport, Lindbergh Field, where Ryan Airlines Inc.,
maker of Lucky Lindy's Spirit of St Louis, was based, underwent a
$238 million upgrade, which gave it more gates and a cosmetic
renovation. But Giametta lamented the changes will not enable the
facility, possibly the nation's most conveniently located, just
minutes from most major city hotels and from the convention center,
to handle more international nonstop flights. The airport's runways
are too short to handle fully loaded, fully fueled long-range
aircraft, and there is no room for extension, he said.
For information about San Diego county or a copy of the
visitors' guide, contact: San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau,
401 B Street, Suite 1400, San Diego 92101-4237. Phone: (619)
232-3101, Fax: (619) 232-1707, Web:www.sandiego.org.