SAN FRANCISCO -- The El Nino rainstorms inundating the state were blamed for cancellations at some hotels here, but the city's top tourism official said the bad weather is not having a significant impact on the visitor industry overall.

A spokesman for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco said, "We're 17 days into February and no-shows and cancellations are double what they normally are. We don't ask why people cancel, but we suppose it has something to do with the weather."

Steve Pinetti, senior vice president for the Kimpton Group, which operates a dozen small hotels in San Francisco, said, "I know business has been lost because of the weather, but [our business] is up overall for this winter." He would not disclose cancellation figures.

But spokesmen for city and state tourist agencies see no reason for alarm. "We're getting very wet, but in terms of business, there has been no effect," said John Marks, president of the San Francisco Convention of Visitors Bureau. "There's been a lot of negative publicity, but conventions and leisure travelers are coming."

Neither the bureau nor the California Division of Tourism had figures showing the impact on visitor numbers.

Northern California has taken the brunt of El Nino, which brought record-breaking rains in January and February, causing massive mud slides and flooding. Highway 1 at Big Sur will remain closed at least through February, according to the California Division of Transportation.

Amtrak, which suspended service on some major routes during the worst of the storms, said it is back in full operation.

Gray Line of San Francisco was forced to cancel its sightseeing programs to the Napa/Sonoma wine country, Muir Woods, Yosemite and Monterey/Carmel during certain periods in the last few weeks. As of last week, all tours were operating as scheduled, except for the portion of the Monterey/Carmel tour that visits the 17-Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula. That drive remains closed to motorcoaches due to storm damage.

Despite the storms -- and some predictions that wet weather will continue through April -- future bookings remain strong, said Anders Carter, reservations manager for Gray Line. "A lot of people ask about the rain, but we haven't really had cancellations because of it," he said.

A spokeswoman for Pier 39, the shopping center near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco's largest attraction, said the center may have lost customers from the suburbs or outlying areas who make day trips to San Francisco.

Although Pier 39 continues to attract crowds, she said, "I think the only people who are really doing well are the video stores."


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