Fires Cause Tourism Disruptions in Southern California

San Diego's convention and visitors bureau,representing an area hardest hit by the wildfires blazing through parts of California, is reporting that most area tourist attractions, including the downtown core and waterfront, are fully operational. The San Diego Convention Center, airport and hotels located in central San Diego are not threatened by the fires and are open for business. Some attractions have closed, including San Diego Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland. A majority of Balboa Park attractions have also closed. The Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort & Spa is closed and fully evacuated. A spokesperson for the resort said, "We hope to reopen on the 24th, but there are no guarantees."

Many tourism officials are questioning the effects of the fire on tourism to San Diego. The hotels are full to the brim with evacuees, which may discourage tourists and business travelers from visiting San Diego, which last year ranked fourth as the most popular U.S. travel destination, with more than 32 million visitors.

Meanwhile, firefighters continue to battle 13 wildfires in seven counties, from San Diego in the south and Malibu in the north. The flames are being driven by fierce Santa Ana winds, with gusts carrying embers as far as two miles. The fires have consumed hundreds of homes and displaced more than a quarter-million people. In San Diego, an estimated 250,000 people were evacuated. Parts of two major freeways from San Diego, Interstates 15 and 5, were closed yesterday. In Malibu, the Pacific Coastal Highway is closed to traffic. (MR)