Vista, CA — While tourism largely came to a halt worldwide during the pandemic, hotels in Vista said they were able to stay afloat and even find success — thanks to the community, which includes the extreme sports industry that drove economic growth in the city.
It might have been a surprise for some to see the upscale boutique Ayres Hotel opening in July 2020 — two months after the state of California announced its stay-at-home order. Kate Jordan, director of sales for Ayres Hotel, said, despite the expected slow start, business has been steadily improving over the last 17 months.
“The city has been very supportive over the last year,” Jordan said. “Our friends at the city have helped us find more business by keeping us in mind when opportunities to partner arise. We never felt out-of-sight or out-of-mind, even when they had so many other businesses needing attention.”
Because of the city’s support, the hotel had more business in the summer of 2021, Jordan said.
“It was great to see families visiting Vista to celebrate with loved ones after more than a year apart,” she said. “Kids playing sports, people getting married, friends hosting reunions or celebrations of life — we still have a long way to go, but it was a beautiful reminder of what our hotel is here for.”
Paola Orozco, director of sales for Hyatt Place in Vista, echoed Jordan — noting that this year’s revenue was higher than anticipated. Hyatt Place was able to navigate challenging times successfully because of the city’s support, she said.
“The city has always been a great partner, especially during COVID-19,” Orozco said. “The city was our No. 1 source of official information for many topics. For the Hyatt Place San Diego Vista/Carlsbad, our priority during that difficult time was always the safety of our guests and staff members and working in line with the city and the county allowed us to constantly keep updating our safety guidelines, as a result strengthening the trust in our brand and generating more business.”
Aside from keeping businesses updated on changing COVID-19 regulations, Orozco said the city served as a gateway for discovering other avenues of growth.
“The active communication we have with the city constantly helps us to find out more about new companies and projects in the area, opening the door for multiple opportunities for business,” Orozco said.
X-Games, Olympians Deliver Economist Boost
The city’s partnership notwithstanding, Vista tourism saw another traffic boost because of the X Games. The X Games, which returned to San Diego County after more than 10 years, held its skateboarding events at the CA Training (CA TF) Facility in Vista.
“The access to facilities like CA TF and others allows athletes to train or film year-round. Not to mention the weather and the fact that a lot of professional athletes live in the area,” said Ryan McGuinness, director of event development and marketing for ESPN. “Any X Games event is going to get global distribution and exposure. The host city becomes a part of event storylines in a variety of ways and therefore receives significant exposure through the broadcast and media coverage.”
The X Games did just that for Vista with both Ayres and Hyatt hotels serving as hosts for visiting professional athletes, media executives such as those from ESPN and fans.
“Sporting events and other social events have been very helpful to our hotel and a great boost to the local economy after a very difficult year,” Jordan said. “The X Games was such a fun event that brought travelers to the area seeking luxurious and safe accommodations and we were so thankful to see our beautiful hotel being enjoyed by such great guests.”
Orozco said aside from hosting X Games athletes, the Hyatt’s relationship with the CA Training Facility allowed them also to host Olympians and their teams who used the facility to train throughout the year despite Covid.
Nicole Harper, operations director for CA Training Facility, said every skateboarding athlete who competed in the Tokyo Olympics trained at the Vista facility, a 28,000-square-foot private facility, which includes full-size competition street and park courses. Some weeks, Harper said nearly 50 athletes were visiting the center to train for the Olympics — delivering an economic boost to the city and region.
Although it was challenging to follow COVID-19 restrictions while hosting dozens of athletes, Harper said she was thrilled to see them all come to Vista for their training needs.
Following the Olympics, the elite CA Training Facility continues to see traffic, Harper said.
“We were honored to have all the Olympians training at CA TF,” Harper said. “We’ve had a lot more people from out of town wanting to get in and skate, and we’ve had a lot of people interested in coming in after viewing the Olympics.”
CA Training Facility’s senior vice president Brian Harper said many athletes have trained with them since they were very young.
“We have known all these people since they were just little kids – so we have become great friends with them and their whole families,” he said. “We are so proud of them for all their hard work and dedication. It is awesome to have such a great group of people in our building every day.”
Nicole Harper said Vista has become the hotbed for skateboarders because of the community members and the city they built together.
“Vista has great skate parks and welcomes skateboarding,” she said. “We are so happy to be in a town that has always recognized skating.”
She said that being in a town that has recognized skateboarding has allowed CA Training Facility to continue to grow in the region and beyond. The facility’s success has also led to the city’s economic success and those who rely on the visiting athletes and their teams.
“We are so happy that we’ve been able to contribute to the growth of Vista,” Nicole Harper said. “We feel so lucky to have a city that backs us. It’s pretty awesome to be able to have a close relationship with the city and be able to call them up and have them understand our business. Vista has a lot to offer — wonderful communities and great skateparks.”
Although local business leaders aren’t sure of what the future holds related to COVID-19 and restrictions, they said they hope to continue attracting athletes — and other visitors — to the city. And, they’ll do that with the support of the city government and its staff.
Mayor Judy Ritter said the reboot of the Vista tourism industry despite the pandemic is a result of the city government’s partnership with businesses and key stakeholders.
“Vista didn’t become the go-to destination for extreme sports by chance,” Ritter said. “Vista’s long history in working with the community is the reason why athletes from around the world come to Vista. It’s also the reason why our tourism industry was able to bounce back so swiftly despite the unique challenges that our world continues to endure.”
Kevin Ham, Economic Development Director, City of Vista