Hotel occupancy is up in San Luis Obispo through October, according to figures from the city’s tourism advisory committee, and the city is collecting more in taxes from visitors’ overnight stays than it has ever before.
That’s because not only has tourism rebounded, but also the city has more hotel rooms and guests are paying more than in COVID-impacted 2020.
Occupancy numbers were 70% in September and 69% in October — about 10 points higher than in the previous year.
City transient occupancy tax (bed tax) revenues have reached the highest levels ever — just under $1 million in the month of August compared to $662,000 in August 2020 and $826,000 in August 2019, before COVID hit.
This summer, hotel occupancy in July was 82% compared to just 54% in July 2020. Local hotels got more for their rooms this past year, averaging just $166 in July 2020 compared to $226 this July.
Meanwhile, the number of hotel rooms in the city continues to grow. City tourism manager Molly Cano says the city now has just under 2,500 rooms, up by around 360 from 2018.
The latest hotel in town to open is an extended-stay complex fronting Highway 101 along Calle Joaquin, the Town Place Suites, a Marriott property.
Helping the tax income to increase is the fact that visitors are spending more when they visit SLO, Cano said.
While business and international travel continues to suffer, the leisure travel market is strong, particularly families looking to get away to a more rural areas like SLO County with its coastal location, Cano added.
While SLO recovers, other California destinations remain uncharacteristically in the doldrums, like San Francisco, which had a lowly 51% hotel occupancy average through October of this year.
The City by the Bay had enjoyed years of 90%-plus occupancy for its hotels. But international visitors to SF are down around 75%, according to Smith Travel, as SFO passenger counts slump.
John Lindt is the editor of the news website Sierra2thesea.net.