COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ROBERT RAUCH

The future for tourism is bright

Since many hospitality organizations work on a July to June fiscal year, this is the time of year that allows for both reflection on the successes of fiscal 2005-06 as well as the challenges ahead for fiscal 2006-07. At the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association, we were able to work closely with the Lodging Industry Association and gain unanimous approval from our board to go forward with a plan to fund a Tourism Improvement District. While there is still much work ahead, this plan will allow for our tourism marketing arms to compete in the marketplace going forward.

At the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis), we are losing President and CEO Reint Reinders, who did a remarkable job for 15 straight years. Reinders will be missed and his tribute on June 14 will be a fantastic one. (Buy your tickets now; all proceeds go to the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at San Diego State University.) Though we lose Reinders, we gain David Peckinpaugh. Peckinpaugh starts his new job this week and as one who had the privilege to sit on the search committee to find a bureau president and CEO, I can say with confidence that we picked a real winner. In addition, key ConVis team members are staying on board to keep the revenue streams humming.

We get to keep both Cami Mattson and Carol Wallace at the San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau and the San Diego Convention Center Corp., respectively. Those two organizations had great years as well and they work together to help keep this industry growing and profitable. They will continue to flourish so long as we continue to prime their pump.

How about sports? We as a community must get behind the San Diego Chargers and keep them in San Diego. I am not advocating the use of precious tax dollars; however, allowing a sports team at the level of the Chargers to go off to L.A. makes no sense at all. What will become of Qualcomm Stadium, SDSU's football program or the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls? How many millions of dollars do the Chargers bring in when they play home football games? A legitimate study would show the value of the team to San Diego -- and not just for the possibility of landing a Super Bowl.

The Padres? One of the smartest moves we as citizens made was the partnership with the San Diego Padres. This is a great new ballpark, a solid team with solid ownership and executives who have provided a super downtown development stimulus. This was a win-win that should give us a template for negotiations with the Chargers.

The arts community? We have a world-class symphony in San Diego, great museums, great cultural attractions and strong cultural tourism leadership from Victoria Hamilton and many others. We need to nurture this group of talented entities.

Attractions? SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Legoland and numerous smaller venues are top of the class in national attractions. We also have great spas, resorts, restaurants, retail, wineries, gaming and more in San Diego.

So what does our future hold? One prediction is that it will be a long time before a new airport is built despite the hard work of the airport authority. It's a shame because we will need additional capacity prior to 2020, the first date that a new airport could open if we approved it today. Our employment clusters are growing, and tourism development in the pipeline will require additional flights into San Diego.

The tourism industry in San Diego is currently booming. That pattern will continue for the next couple of years; however, the storm clouds are additional new supply, limited marketing dollars and the inevitable economic downturn. The only area we can really control is available marketing dollars. I have confidence in tourism industry leaders, Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council. Despite the storm clouds, the future remains bright.


Rauch is the director of the Center for Hospitality and Tourism Research at San Diego State University and sits on the boards of the San Diego Hotel and Motel Association, the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and the San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at robert.rauch@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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