A break in the weather has brought in cooler temperatures and weaker winds, allowing firefighters greater control over California wildfires that have destroyed 1,300 homes and forced the evacuation of 500,000 people. San Diego is the hardest hit, and the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau suggests travelers with current hotel reservations in the city call and reconfirm whether their rooms will still be available. A number of attractions in the city are still closed, including San Diego Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland. The Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort & Spa is closed and fully evacuated. The resort escaped serious damage from the Witch Creek fire that continues to burn in nearby areas of northern San Diego County.
Many area casinos have also closed, including Barona, Harrah's, Golden Acorn, Pauma, Santa Ysabel, Viejas Outlet, and Valley View.
In Laguna Beach, midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, the Surf & Sand Resort is 100 percent booked. "We've been taking in evacuees from the San Diego area," says Amy McLimore, director of group sales for the property. "I predict it will be a month before things are back to normal."
In Los Angeles, there are reports of hotels filling up with evacuees. The Hyatt Valencia is offering a special rate of $99 for evacuees. Even without the special condition an emergency poses, getting a room in Los Angeles can pose problems. Los Angeles County is having its best year in its history with 2007 hotel occupancy figures showing an average of 76.4 percent.
Meanwhile, America's Vacation Center (AVC)/American Express reports that it has been unharmed by the firestorms. Located about 30 minutes north of San Diego, its Vista office remained open at a reduced level throughout the crisis and is now back to full capacity.
AVC is currently working with its vendor partners and Independent Affiliate network to start collecting funds for the victims of the firestorms. More information on these programs will be announced in the coming days.
AVC has also offered its Vista office and support services, including computer and office use, Contact Center support, and more to all professional home-based travel agencies located in Southern California that have been affected by the firestorms. If you are a travel professional needing assistance, or would like to help or make a donation, e-mail SoCalFireRelief@AmericasVacationCenter.com.(MR)