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— "Many of the people who visit San Diego have relatively high disposable income," says Jerry Morrison, local hotel expert. Nonetheless, "I am amazed that we haven't seen a falloff with these higher gasoline prices."

San Diego may gain some conventions that would have gone to New Orleans and other devastated cities, say Gin and several others.

"I have never seen the price of gas impact us," says one student of the industry. Some say a lower promotional budget of the Convention and Visitors Bureau will hurt, "but that's hard to argue, since we had an excellent summer. Some managers bitch about the high gas price," but that's just a handy excuse for explaining lousy results, says this tourism pro.

But there is caution. "Volume won't be as strong" as in past periods when the drive market bailed out San Diego, says Giacomini.

"If the housing bubble bursts in the U.S., and the economy goes down, San Diego tourism will go down, but, as after 9/11, we will do better than other cities in a bad environment," says Morrison.

"In the past, the impacts of gasoline price spikes have been negligible," says Sal Giametta, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "People have spent less on food, bought fewer souvenirs. However, this time we are more concerned. Oil shortages compounded by increased gas prices, along with other things such as the federal deficit, inflation, and consumer confidence, give us reason to pause and closely watch the situation."

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