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By Jennifer Davies, The San Diego Union-Tribune Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 12--Hotel room rates are up. So is hotel occupancy, which is projected to be almost 73 percent for 2004. Petco Park and the bustling Gaslamp Quarter, with its hip, upscale hotels and restaurants, are drawing more visitors. After the post-Sept. 11 slump, the national travel business is also making a comeback, meaning more people are looking for places to visit -- for business and pleasure. So far this year, passenger traffic at San Diego International Airport is up 7.3 percent from 2003.
All of this translates into good news for San Diego and its tourism and lodging industries.
"Not only is San Diego the strongest hotel market in Southern California, it is currently one of the strongest hotel markets in the country," said a recent report by PFK Consulting, a hospitality industry research firm. No doubt about it, San Diego's tourism industry is to be envied, said Jeff Lugosi, an analyst with PFK.
"Everyone likes to whine about something," he said. "But San Diego doesn't have a lot to whine about, really."
Still, for San Diego's tourism industry officials, every silver lining has a …