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Tourism Industry Seeks Long-Haul Visitors

The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau released last year's tourism numbers at its annual meeting today, and they show that business was better than in 2010, but still down due to the recession.

Aired 3/16/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego tourism was up in 2011. But it still hasn't rebounded to pre-recession levels.

A view of the San Diego skyline from across the bay.
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Above: A view of the San Diego skyline from across the bay.

Joe Terzi is president of the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CONVIS). He told the gathering at the downtown Marriott Hotel that 31 million visitors came to San Diego in 2011. That was up about one million from the year before.

But business was still down from 2008. One challenge facing San Diego tourism is attracting people from farther away.

“Sixty-three percent of our overnight visitors come from California, Arizona and Nevada: three states,” said Terzi.

CONVIS is trying to expand its customer base by spending $30 million to market San Diego nationwide as a destination. Terzi said the point is not just to increase the number of visitors, but also to increase tourism revenues.

"We own the drive market,” he said. “But the problem is we need to get people to come and stay longer from some of these long-haul markets. Those people spend more money, they stay longer, and they're more lucrative to the destination."

Terzi addressed the CONVIS annual meeting, which is called the "State of the Travel Industry" meeting. He also said San Diego logged 3.8 million hotel room nights in 2011. The visitor industry employed 163,000 San Diegans that year, and brought $17.2 billion to the regional economy.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 16, 2012 at 11:59 a.m. ― 5 years ago

I think the city is taking good steps:

- convention center expansion
- upcoming direct flight to Tokyo in addition to the current direct flight to London

We need to market to the convention, business, and long-haul travelers.

To be blunt about it, San Diego's reputation as a "family vacation" spot hurts us more than helps.

Short dstance travelers fom AZ who pack their kids in a car and drive here for the weekend are not only obnoxious (I hear locals complaining about the "Zonies" invading each year), they tend to spend far less by staying at lower-end motels and eating at in-n-out burger.

Contrast this with the business traveller with a corporate AMEX card in hand who tends to stay at more expensive hotels and frequents the upscale restaurants dontown that many locals in the service industry depend on for their livelihoods.

I think SD needs to get away from peddling Sea World and Legoland and start selling our cultural attractions like Balboa Park, the various theaters like Old Globe and LJ Playhouse, and up and coming offbeat arts districts like North Park.

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