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A toast to San Diego tourism

Both San Diego’s tourism industry and craft beer industry have been in the news lately.

In April, the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (SDTMD), mayor, City Council and city attorney came to an agreement about the need to support San Diego’s tourism industry, an industry that generates $18 billion in economic impact for San Diego each year.

About the same time, the National University System Institute for Policy Research released a study stating that the craft beer industry generated $299.5 million in economic impact for San Diego in 2011.

Both craft beer and tourism have established themselves as powerhouses of the San Diego economy, and as president of the San Diego Brewers Guild, I have seen how intertwined the two industries are.

That’s why, during National Tourism Week this week, I’d like to raise a glass to the tourism industry and the SDTMD, an organization that has helped spur the development of San Diego as a craft beer tourism destination.

In 2009, as San Diego was approaching 40 craft breweries, the San Diego Brewers Guild was beginning to work on an event that would benefit both local brewers and the local tourism industry, San Diego Beer Week.

In need of funds, the Brewers Guild applied for and received $22,320 in seed money from the SDTMD. With that vital funding and continued financial support from the SDTMD over the next three years, San Diego Beer Week flourished.

Through this 10-day countywide celebration of San Diego’s craft beer culture, the Brewers Guild not only fosters knowledge of our regional brewing heritage, but also showcases the city’s incredible breweries, restaurants, pubs and hotels. Last year alone, San Diego Beer Week events in November, many of them sellouts, generated about 5,943 hotel room nights sold.

Four years later, San Diego now offers an astounding 65 breweries, with even more scheduled to open this year. Keeping these breweries in business requires interest not only from local residents but also from the 32 million visitors who flock to San Diego each year.

Fortunately for San Diego’s many brewers, the SDTMD knows the impact that craft beer tourism has on our region, and since 2009, its investment has enabled the Brewers Guild to generate millions of media impressions, bringing countless new visitors to our city with a thirst for beer and paradise.

Just last year, we ran an aggressive print, online, radio and social media campaign targeting craft beer enthusiasts and beer visitors from California, Arizona, Oregon, New York, Colorado and Midwest states. It wouldn’t have been possible without SDTMD support, and we look forward to accomplishing even more in 2013.

The SDTMD’s investment in craft beer tourism does not stop at the San Diego Brewers Guild. The San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA), a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting San Diego as a travel destination, receives 80 percent of its funding from the SDTMD and has an extensive marketing program promoting San Diego as a destination for craft beer lovers.

Since 2008, SDTA has promoted a hard-hitting public relations effort around craft beer that has resulted in newspaper and magazine stories around the world, generating more than $1 million worth of free media coverage.

In recent years, San Diego has been named the Top Beer Town in America by Men’s Journal magazine, and The New York Times cited San Diego as a “sunny heaven for suds lovers,” naming San Diego as one of their top places to visit in 2012 due to our craft beer culture.

The coverage does not end there — San Diego’s craft beer scene has been featured on CNN and in DRAFT magazine, Food & Wine, key-market newspapers such as the Arizona Daily Star and Dallas Morning News, WestJet’s up! flight magazine and the UK edition of Time magazine, just to name a few.

The craft beer message has also been widely featured in the SDTA’s destination advertising. The SDTA has promoted San Diego’s craft beer with 500,000 newspaper inserts and $274,000 worth of radio promotions in targeted markets.

We all know that San Diego has great beaches, perfect weather and world-class attractions to offer visitors, but the SDTMD and SDTA know that we can’t rely on those features alone to remain one of the top tourism destinations in the nation.

Promoting craft beer tourism not only draws in new and different visitors to our region, but also supports our local economy in a very powerful way. Our beer industry supports more than 1,600 local jobs; the tourism industry supports 160,000 local jobs, with more on tap.

So we hope all San Diegans will join us in celebrating National Tourism Week through Sunday and raise your pint in a toast to San Diego tourism. And, if you're wondering about the value of the SDTMD and its investments, the answer may be as close as the bottom of your San Diego-brewed beer.

DeWitt is president of the San Diego Brewers Guild.

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