Photo by KPBS Staff
Travel is up nationwide, and the trend is hitting San Diego too.
This past Sunday, the San Diego International Airport reported its busiest flying day since the pandemic was first declared, more than a year ago.
“In March, there’s several different spring breaks so traditionally a popular time for people to travel,” said airport spokesperson Sabrina LoPiccolo.
Overrall, compared to this time in 2019, traffic is still down 61%. But compared to being down 95% last April, things are looking brighter for San Diego. LoPiccolo attributes the uptick to spring break crowds and a growing number of vaccinations, sparking confidence in travelers.
“Even just looking from month to month we are seeing an increase in passengers,” LoPiccolo said.
The hotel industry is also seeing a bump. After averaging around 16,000 daily bookings countywide at the beginning of this year, numbers have steadily increased to around 50,000 bookings. While it is an improvement, the numbers are not comparable to pre-pandemic during this time.
Some schools are already on spring break, but the San Diego Unified School District, the second largest in the state, goes on break next week and officials are expecting more crowds at the beaches and boats in the water.
Businesses near the beach are reporting seeing more crowds, especially now that indoor dining is back at a limited capacity.
“We are seeing some tourists from Arizona, like our typical tourists, but it’s honestly dropped a lot,” said Daniela Bower, public relations manager at Belmont Park, which is just steps away from Mission Beach.
Bower said normally, spring break is their second busiest time of the year.
“In previous years it would be packed,” she said. “This year I don’t think it’s going to be quite that much.”
Belmont Park officials are expecting an increase over the next few weeks. San Diego County is now in the state’s red reopening tier, which allows amusement parks and baseball stadiums to reopen April 1. Belmont Park plans to reopen then, meaning the nearly 100 year old Giant Dipper roller coaster and other attractions there will be ready to ride, with precautions.
“It’s definitely a huge deal for us and the San Diego community as well,” Bower said.
CDC officials are still advising against traveling, warning of a potential surge in cases, especially if unvaccinated people are mixing.
“If they make that decision to travel do it responsibly,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher Wednesday. “And at this point in, we’re a year in (to the pandemic), folks know the individual steps and actions we can take.”
Fletcher said there are no quarantine mandates for San Diego County residents returning from a trip, but while acknowledging that the county is on a good trajectory and with the possible lifting of even more restrictions in the coming weeks, he is reminding those thinking of traveling of the statewide advisory.
“Encouraging Californians to avoid non-essential travel more than 120 miles from someone’s place of residence,” Fletcher said.
He also added the advisory asks those traveling out of state to self-quarantine for 10 days when they return.
The local economy might be getting a boost from convention businesses soon too.
San Diego Convention Center officials are reporting optimism from attendees looking to hosts events in the second half of 2021. A spokesperson said Wednesday many events like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Expo and Comic-Con International have decided to postpone events until later in the year, rather than flat-out cancel them.
The spokesperson said there are very few cancellations or postponements past August of 2021, but they recently some large conferences, like like AKC Meet the Breeds, scheduled for August with 17,500 attendees.
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