Passengers crowd baggage claim at Terminal 2. Photo courtesy San Diego International Airport.

By plane, train and mostly automobile, visitors began arriving in San Diego Friday for the Independence Day weekend, kicking off what’s expected to be a huge month for local tourism.

According to the San Diego Tourism Authority, hotel rooms in San Diego are expected to achieve an occupancy rate of 96 percent over the next few days, and visitors will likely collectively spend around $72 million for lodging, food and shopping.

Hotel tax revenue is projected to be around $2.7 million for the holiday weekend in San Diego, which the Auto Club said was the top Fourth of July tourist destination for Southern Californians. The AAA projects this weekend to be the biggest-ever Independence Day holiday for travel in the region.

“Lower gas prices have put some more disposable income in travelers’ budgets and have also lowered average airfares, encouraging more trips this holiday season and throughout the summer,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

“We’re also seeing more travelers willing to spend a little extra on credit with a growth in consumer confidence,” she said.

The Auto Club estimated 2.41 million travelers are expected to hit the roads this weekend. Caltrans freeway monitors showed a substantial amount of slowing before noon for drivers pointed south on Interstate 5 in the North County.

The month will also bring baseball’s All-Star Game and numerous associated events to San Diego, plus the Pride Festival and Comic-Con International.

“During July, San Diego will host hundreds of thousands of visitors who will spend an estimated $1.4 billion,” said Joe Terzi, SDTA’s president and CEO. “This will impact San Diego in a huge way by boosting our local economy, sustaining jobs, and generating hotel tax revenue to help pay for city services like police, fire and street resurfacing.”

All-Star Game events will begin Thursday with the opening of Play Ball Park in front of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. The next day, the All-Star FanFest will start at the San Diego Convention Center, and a series of concerts will get underway at Embarcadero Marina Park South.

The game itself is set for July 12.

San Diego Pride is scheduled for July 15-17 in Balboa Park and Hillcrest, and Comic-Con will take place July 20-24 at the convention center.

–City News Service

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