Tourism bureau sees visitor rate decrease in 2009


Visitor spending in San Diego was down 11.2 percent last year and hotel occupancy slipped 5.6 percent, according to a report released Monday.

Visitors to San Diego spent about $7 billion locally last year, down from $7.9 billion in 2008, according to a visitor industry forecast prepared by Tourism Economics for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, or ConVis.

The hotel occupancy rate in San Diego last year was 63.2 percent, down 5.6 percent from 2008, according to ConVis.

“I can tell you the numbers are somewhat disappointing,” said Joe Terzi, chief executive officer of ConVis.

Despite a nationwide tourism downturn, San Diego fared better than most destinations, however, and the local tourism industry should show a modest improvement this year and return to peak levels in 2011, according to the forecast.

Terzi said a significant portion of the decline in visitor spending last year can be blamed on a 23 percent drop in group meetings.

In an effort to help offset the plunge in meetings being held locally, Terzi was joined by Mayor Jerry Sanders and area boosters at a news conference at The US Grant hotel to announce a “Keep It in San Diego” marketing campaign.

The idea is to encourage local business leaders and organizations to hold their meetings in San Diego or to help lure conferences and events to the city.

“Meetings and conventions are a vital segment of the tourism industry and provide extraordinary economic value to San Diego,” Sanders said. “By working together to keep the meetings industry healthy, we can ensure the security of more than $80 million in tax revenue for essential city services and improve the outlook of the entire region.”

The campaign will use national advertising, online marketing, public relations and direct mail to convince corporations, businesses and meeting planners to hold their conferences and events in San Diego, according to ConVis.