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Local Hotels Getting Creative to Boost Tourism

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 10/23/2020 Audra Stafford
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San Diego is a top tourist destination, and during a typical year visitors spend an estimated $11.6 billion here.

Of course, 2020 is anything but typical.

With conventions canceled and major attractions like SeaWorld, Legoland and Belmont Park mostly closed, local hotels are feeling the impact.

San Diego is fairing better than most of the country, but average hotel occupancy is still down considerably -- from about 77% at this time last year to 54% this year, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority.

“We used to be a big group house and now it’s a lot of leisure travelers,” said Donna Chong, Resident Director of the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

Chong said they're seeing a lot of drive-in traffic from other parts of California and Arizona.

“People want to have fun, they want to socialize, but they want to do it safely, and I think San Diego provides that for people,” Chong said.

Still, she said, they've had to come up with new incentives to get people to stay, like their "Parents' Day Off" package.

“I’m a mother of two and my children are in middle school and it’s hard, right," she said. “This package allows parents to be able to come here, have their kids continue to learn, supervised, through our learning labs – they can go to Midway, SeaWorld, the Zoo -- and the parents, us, can just relax.”

The Residence Inn & Springhill Suites near the Embarcadero is trying something new as well. They rushed the opening of their rooftop bar Harbor & Sky in the hopes that it will attract people to the hotel when a lot fewer people are traveling.

Earlier this month, the Tourism Authority also launched a marketing campaign called "Yay Weekyays!" to encourage people to visit on weekdays. As part of the campaign, hotels across San Diego are offering incentives like discounted room rates, complimentary guest parking, free breakfast, spa discounts and late checkout.

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Robert Delgado and his wife Carolyn are visiting from the Sacramento area this week. They found a hotel deal in Solana Beach they couldn't resist.

"It was not very expensive, so that’s why we went with that one,” Delgado said.

And while the smaller crowds may not be great news for the hotels, the couple said it's part of the reason they're choosing to travel now.

“It’s great for us," Delgado said. "Yeah. Yeah. Less people is a little attractive.”

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