It's the height of the summer season in San Diego and the livin' is easy -- both for area residents and the millions of visitors who come to the region on summer vacation.
You might wonder how many tourists visit San Diego in the summer months. Last year, we welcomed 9.3 million visitors to our region from June through August. Some of those visitors were here for a day trip, half of them spent the night in the homes of family and friends, and the rest booked rooms in our area hotels and motels.
Tourism in San Diego is booming this summer, thanks to increased consumer confidence, a healthy national economy, and the efforts of your San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau to aggressively promote leisure travel and convention and meetings business to our region.
We all recognize the fact that San Diego is "Heaven on Earth" -- as it was marketed back in the turn of the 20th century. However, in this highly competitive day and age, we simply cannot rest on our laurels and become complacent about selling the San Diego "product."
Competition for the leisure traveler and convention dollar is fierce. Cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando have unlimited funds to seduce delegates and leisure travelers to their destinations. Special celebrations such as Disneyland's 50th Anniversary and the Las Vegas Centennial, which are currently attracting record-breaking numbers of visitors, have cut into San Diego's market share.
With the staggering budget cuts imposed on the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau over three years (a reduction of $5.1 million or 37 percent), we drop to 17th place among bureaus nationally. What does this mean? We will have to fight a fierce battle to maintain our market share, especially when faced with cities that have significantly greater dollars to launch expensive ad campaigns and employ large sales and marketing staffs to lure leisure travelers and convention delegates to their destinations.
To those of you not directly involved in the business of tourism, you may not fully understand the role your San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis) plays in utilizing an $11.1 million budget to stimulate more than $5 billion in visitor industry spending that pours into our local economy annually.
Approximately 89 percent of our visitors are leisure travelers, so a great part of our sales efforts go into advertising to this market. These travelers come in all demographics and with various vacation requirements, so we try to cover all the bases in our advertising. Some of these "niche" markets within the national leisure travel market include families traveling with children, cultural tourists, eco-tourists, the Gen-X market, the baby boomer market and the senior market. We also reach out to numerous specialty groups, from golfers and cruise ship travelers to spa enthusiasts, to name just a few.
San Diego is unique in having an incredible palette of activities and attractions to satisfy just about any traveler's taste. This summer brings even more exciting options for vacationers and meeting delegates to choose from during their visit.
In just the past few months, downtown San Diego saw the opening of the House of Blues restaurant and entertainment complex and the city's first Kimpton Hotel, Hotel Solamar, which offers a unique urban escape with 235 boutique-style rooms just one block from PETCO Park and three blocks from the San Diego Convention Center.
Other areas of our region are also adding upscale hotel properties. Del Mar recently welcomed the opening of Homewood Suites by Hilton which boasts 120 luxury-appointed suites catering to the needs of the area's business community.
Tower23, the first luxury oceanfront hotel to be built in a decade, recently opened its doors to guests and promises to be an exciting addition to the region's collection of hip, boutique hotels. Boasting a new-modernist design coupled with original and upscale dÈcor, the three-story Pacific Beach property offers 44 ocean view suites plus JRDN, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant with an indoor/outdoor bar on the boardwalk.
All these new developments help us sell our destination to a variety of markets, from the leisure traveler to meeting planners looking for an exciting new experience for their clients.
Since most of our advertising is directed to out-of-town markets, some of you may not be familiar with our San Diego brand, which we developed in 1997 to convey our message to the travel consumer. Our brand positions ("brands") the region as a place where visitors can enjoy the best of the Southern California lifestyle and escape the pressures of everyday life. We use warm colors, text and photos that speak to a variety of audiences, from couples to families to friends of all ages. Each of our ads captures a part of the San Diego lifestyle and unique Southern California experiences found only here. (To catch a glimpse of the San Diego Brand, visit our Web site at www.sandiego.org).
With summer 2005 in full swing, your San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau encourages you to explore and enjoy all the wonderful amenities San Diego has to offer to its visitors and residents alike. When you do, know that the ConVis Bureau works relentlessly to keep our beautiful region in the eyes of the world. Our goal is to ensure that tourism remains San Diego's third largest industry, providing revenue and jobs to our region.
We are so fortunate to live in a community that others pay dearly to experience. Now get out there and be a tourist in your own backyard!
Reinders is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.