San Diego Sees 30.5MM Tourists During 2023

San Diego Tourism Authority, San Diego, SeaWorld San Diego, Condé Nast Traveler, San Diego Zoo
Courtesy of Daniel Guerra

The San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) will celebrate a triumphant 2023 fiscal year today at its 69th Annual Meeting held at SeaWorld San Diego. Ahead of the highly anticipated event for nearly 600 local tourism and hospitality leaders, community stakeholders, and elected officials, SDTA revealed new data about the economic and visitor attraction successes, positive impacts, as well as new international rankings of the region’s local tourism industry.

In fiscal year 2023, San Diego welcomed an estimated 30.5 million visitors who collectively stayed longer in the region and contributed a record $14.28 billion in direct spending locally — a significant $1 billion increase compared to the previous fiscal year. With visitors steadily coming to the San Diego region, local hotels also achieved higher occupancy rates countywide at an average of 73.7%, an increase of 5% year-over-year. These hotel stays helped generate more than $418 million in transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenue for local municipalities.

“As demonstrated by our newest data, San Diego’s tourism industry is a powerhouse for our economy and beloved benefactor of San Diegans’ high quality of life,” said Julie Coker, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “Despite facing unusual weather patterns, inflation, and ongoing economic uncertainties throughout the year, our industry soared above adversity to achieve record-breaking milestones, demonstrated exceptional resilience, and reached new heights that will have a lasting positive impact for years to come.”

San Diego’s bustling tourism in fiscal year 2023 fueled unprecedented regional economic growth, supported quality jobs, and contributed to essential services and well-being of local communities. The total economic impact generated by tourism reached $23.48 billion and the industry supported more than 214,000 direct and indirect jobs. In August 2023, SDTA released a report highlighting the unlimited opportunity and profound benefits of careers in the tourism industry titled, “Elevating Opportunities: San Diego’s Tourism Jobs Create Economic and Social Mobility.”

San Diego’s reputation as a premier destination for travelers, conventions, and events also garnered national recognition this year. Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards ranked San Diego as the No. 2 Best Big City in the U.S. – surpassing popular cities like Honolulu, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – and The Wall Street Journal recognized San Diego’s Convention Center as the fourth best in the country and the top choice for city and surroundings.

“Travelers have always been drawn to San Diego’s sunshine, renowned attractions, and vibrant lifestyle, and it has become a beacon of so much more,” said Shawn Dixon, chair of SDTA Board of Directors and COO of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “With our shared passion and dedication to making San Diego a premier travel destination that fosters a welcoming spirit for everyone, our efforts make this city not just a great place to visit, but also a wonderful place to work and call home.”

San Diego’s success is rooted in its unmatched tourism offerings and hospitality, making it a top U.S. destination. From its natural beauty and outdoor adventures, world-class attractions and captivating art and cultural experiences, to an award-winning diverse culinary scene permeated by the region’s friendly spirit, San Diego leaves a lasting positive impression on travelers and residents alike. At the event, SDTA’s Julie Coker and Visit California’s Caroline Beteta will conduct a fireside-style-discussion about the opportunities, challenges, and industry initiatives ahead for San Diego and California’s tourism industry in the upcoming year.

“As we look ahead to 2024, San Diego’s accomplishments from 2023 are instrumental in California’s overall tourism success and help pave the way for an even brighter future,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “Looking at California as a whole for the next fiscal year, we’ll focus on evolving our statewide brand as ‘The Ultimate Playground,’ maximizing continued post-pandemic recovery, attracting new and returning international visitors, and integrating sustainability objectives into our tourism plans and initiatives.”