San Diego

San Diego Tourism Authority Sees ‘Record Result' in 2018, Looks Ahead to Challenges in 2019

The new year marks a new global campaign for San Diego’s tourism industry, as advertisers expect record numbers that have “Something to Smile About.”

In a “record result,” approximately 35.8 million people visited San Diego in 2018, according to President and CEO of San Diego Tourism Authority Joe Terzi. Though, the official numbers won’t be released for a few months.

“We think [20]19’s gonna get a little soft, you know, the markets are starting to soften up a little bit. We’re not sure what’s going to happen economically in the country, so we’re a little concerned about this next year,” Terzi said.

Terzi estimated that San Diego will still see a three percent growth in 2019 from the previous year, reaching about 36.8 million people.

While the president and CEO said San Diego has seen eight years of growth in its tourism industry, he noted there are still challenges ahead.

“It’s pretty obvious there are things going on in our country that are concerning to a lot of people, we just hope that those things get resolved and have less of an impact on our industry because San Diego is fueled by tourism and we don’t want that to stop,” said Terzi.

In 2018, lodging saw some of the biggest ups of all time in San Diego, Terzi added. 

Occupancy for hotels and motels was hitting 78 percent, record highs locally. 

Despite AirBnB competitors, hotels and motels saw more tourists, meaning more dollars being spent at local businesses and restaurants. 

The Tourism Authority said that could be due to the strong economy across the United States, giving people more money to spend on hotels. 

Commercials for San Diego tourism typically have a three-year cycle, Terzi said. In 2019, he mentioned it was time to “continue the evolution.”

This year’s theme is “Something to Smile About.”

One of the notably changes comes from creating two commercials instead of one for this upcoming cycle.

“When you try to balance the great assets of San Diego, but also talk about what a great place it is for families, it got a little bit disjointed,” said Terzi.

So, the San Diego Tourism Authority created a “general brand” commercial and a commercial focused entirely on kids and the family.

Terzi said diversity was important in the commercials “so people saw people that they related to.”

The San Diego Tourism Authority spent $19 million in pure advertising from Jan. to June of 2019, which is the most the group has spent in six months by “at least a couple million dollars,” according to Terzi.

Of that budget, $15 million was spent for U.S.-based advertising, while the remainder was used internationally.

“We’re, kind of, playing up to that sports theme in San Diego, which is a great part of our economy,” Terzi said.

This includes advertising at the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s March Madness 2019.

“From our standpoint, it’s more about getting San Diego recognized,” he said.

Globally, the San Diego Tourism Authority will market in Mexico, Canada, and Great Britain.

“It’s a great time to advertise in Canada when it’s not that warm there, and it’s snowy and the weather’s not great,” said Terzi. “And Mexico, in spite of the fact that there are some challenges right now that we’re working our way through, is still an unbelievable market for us to continue to develop and nurture.”

The San Diego Tourism Authority is primarily funded by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, according to Terzi. Other funds come from memberships and advertisers.

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