On Friday, more than 1,200 people representing all areas of San Diego's visitor industry will convene in the spectacular new ballroom of the Manchester Grand Hyatt to attend the 49th Annual Meeting of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Our theme for this event is Brand New Day. It represents the new hope and promise that our industry will continue to rebound as the nation pulls itself out of the aftermath of global unrest and a recessionary economy.
San Diego is basking in the glow of an exceptionally successful summer season. In fact, we just received the official statistics that placed us No. 1 among the top 25 cities in the nation for hotel occupancy in both July and August. Our August occupancy hit 84.3 percent, followed by Oahu and Norfolk/Virginia Beach (both at 82 percent) and New York City (78 percent). The average August occupancy in the nation in August was 67.9 percent, so it is obvious how well our industry performed compared to the rest of the nation.
Not only did San Diego enjoy high occupancy this summer, but hotel rooms brought in top dollar. At $118.21, San Diego's average daily hotel rate during August ranked third in the nation, behind New York City ($146) and Oahu ($119).
Several factors helped propel San Diego to the top spot this summer.
People are vacationing closer to home than ever before, so our popularity as a close-in drive and short-haul flight destination, coupled with our diverse activities and attractions, give us a unique appeal to a wide variety of travel markets.
A pent-up demand for vacation travel hit consumers after the end of the war in Iraq and the SARS virus scare. Consumers now want to travel, but they don't want to travel longer than three hours to get to their destination. San Diego, not surprisingly, became the first choice for many vacation planners looking to "get away from it all" after so many weeks of national trauma that took its toll on everyone's psyches.
Since we know that our visitors are coming by automobile more than ever, ConVis has strategically shifted marketing and advertising efforts to maximize this trend, with a heavy focus on the Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas markets. We also recently opened up new markets -- Dallas and Seattle -- to capitalize on the direct, short-haul flight connections that make traveling to San Diego from Texas and Washington easy and affordable.
To continue to attract travelers to San Diego during the fall and winter months, we will continue to reach out to niche markets with advertising targeted to these groups. Some of these markets include cultural tourists who travel to San Diego for special events, exhibitions or performing arts events as well as those who come to our region to relax, visit a spa and simply refresh their spirits.
We also target those potential visitors seeking adventure, a growing market among the baby boomer generation. According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, some 60 percent of the 45 million adventure travel customers each year in the U.S. will soon be older than 50. Whether the visitor is seeking thrills or relaxation, we are in the extremely enviable position of being able to offer a wide variety of experiences to satisfy any taste.
As expected, the expansion of our convention center continues to buoy our local economy since we are now able to attract larger conventions and trade shows to our region. Business at the San Diego Convention Center continues to be very strong, with 171,900 delegates (+23.4 percent) spending $184 million (+7.8 percent) for local products and services the first six months of 2003. Overall, the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) continues to report record-breaking attendance figures. Some 404,600 out-of-town convention delegates booked more than 700,000 room nights in San Diego hotels in fiscal year 2003 -- an all-time record!
While business at the convention center remains unparalleled, general business-related travel for San Diego (as for the rest of the nation) continues to remain soft due to the economy as well as corporate travel and expense restrictions. Independent business travel and corporate meetings are the areas most negatively impacted by the new business environment. It is also important to note that technologies such as teleconferencing and Web conferencing have become widely used since 9/11 and have certainly provided an alternative to face-to-face meetings. The future impact of these alternative meetings technologies is not yet fully understood.
The Internet will also remain a formidable tool in marketing San Diego as a vacation and convention destination. Some 2.4 million visits to the ConVis Web site at www.sandiego.org were recorded in fiscal 2003 -- 25 times the number recorded in 1997, when a "mere" 97,859 visits were logged during the site's first year of operation.
Visitors to our Web site can do everything from booking a hotel room or an entire vacation package to planning and coordinating an entire convention.
As visitor industry representatives come together under one roof to celebrate this "Brand New Day," we have every hope that San Diego's tourism will once again enjoy record-breaking activity and continue to fuel our region's economic engines in its role as our community's third largest industry.
Reinders is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. E-mail him at email@example.com.