SAN FRANCISCO -- Palm Springs and its neighboring desert resorts
are riding high after being tagged as some of the hippest and
hottest resorts in the nation by consumer travel magazines and East
Coast-based media outlets during the last several years.
The media spotlight -- which led to a surge in interest by hotel
developers and investors -- brought Palm Springs banner years in
1999 and 2000, with 3 million visitors each year, according to Gary
Sherwin, vice president of the Palm Springs Desert Resorts
Convention and Visitors Authority.
"When the East Coast press declared us 'hip,' that seemed to put
us on the map again," Sherwin said.
Of course, Palm Springs was 'hip' years ago, as the desert
playground for Hollywood stars such as Errol Flynn and Greta Garbo
in the 1920s.
But today, with a boom in the restoration of classic 1950s
architecture and its discovery by young stars such as Britney
Spears, there is a new luster to the image of the area.
Final visitor tallies are not in for 2001, but tourism industry
officials here expect them to show a falloff due to Sept. 11 and a
However, Palm Springs and its neighbor resorts -- the visitors
authority also includes the towns of Desert Hot Springs, Indian
Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Rancho
Mirage -- should weather the general tourism downturn better than
the state's urban areas, thanks to the resorts' heavy dependence on
the drive-in market.
Some 53% of visitors to the area drive from Southern California;
another 15% to 20% come from the San Francisco Bay Area.
"I think we'll end 2001 only down 7% in hotel occupancy,"
The biggest loss for Palm Springs and the other resorts was
cancellations in fall convention and meetings business, but there
was a strong resurgence in those bookings for the late winter and
early spring of this year, Sherwin said.
Known for their 100 golf courses (34% of area visitors come for
golf) and 350 days of sunshine, the desert resorts recently have
begun promoting something both new and old -- spas.
"We want to become known as the place where you come to
rejuvenate, reinvigorate yourself and totally relax," Sherwin said.
"We want to send people home feeling better than when they
Several boutique hotels that have sprung up in the last two
years also have been drawing visitors, he noted. In recognition of
the popularity of small hotels, the authority issued a 16-page
guide to 200 small properties.
It is available by writing to the authority at 69-930 Highway
111, Suite 2, Department SD, Rancho Mirage, Calif. 92270, or by
calling (800) 41-RELAX.
The authority's Web site is at www.palmspringsusa.com.