San Diego’s Tourism Economy Gains Ground in 2014

San Diego’s Tourism Economy Gains Ground in 2014

33.8 Million People Visit San Diego and Spend More than $9 Billion 

Fueled by an unprecedented, multimillion dollar marketing campaign and several new, innovative promotional initiatives, San Diego’s tourism economy scored its best year on record in 2014.

With just two weeks left in the year, San Diego is poised to set local industry records in each of the major categories, including total number of visitors (33.8 million), visitor spending ($9.2 billion), the number of hotel room nights sold (16.2 million), and hotel transient occupancy tax revenue ($244 million), which benefits local residents by providing funding for essential city and county programs and services.

Rod LaBranche

“This was a blockbuster of a year for tourism,” said Rod LaBranche, board chairman of the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA), which is responsible for marketing San Diego as a travel destination.  “This demonstrates that a sustained marketing effort is enormously effective in attracting visitors to our region, which is essential for San Diego’s economy.”

“Despite rough conditions in 2013, the San Diego Tourism Authority came back in a big way,” said Joe Terzi, President and CEO of the SDTA, which endured a reduction in funding in 2013.  “The investment we made in our tourism economy in 2014 is now producing big returns for the people of San Diego, including the 163,000 people who make up the region’s tourism industry.”

Earlier this year, the SDTA launched a $13 million multi-platform marketing campaign, which included television in major markets across the west, as well as national and western region digital advertising including popular travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Trip Advisor.

The campaign also included commercials in January during the nationally televised Chargers-Broncos play-off game and the Farmers Insurance Golf Open, as well as the Padres-Dodgers opening night game in April.  In all, the ads delivered 958 million gross impressions.

To further draw visitors to San Diego, The SDTA also launched several new initiatives:

Destination marketing in China: The SDTA began marketing San Diego as a visitor destination in the Republic of China, the most populous nation on earth. Home to more than 1.3 billion people, China is now the leading overseas market for travelers into California; the country provides enormous potential for San Diego to increase and diversify its visitor base. The SDTA also launched a Chinese language version of the official destination website,, in November. The efforts in China build upon the SDTA’s other overseas marketing efforts, which include in-country marketing representation, public relations and social media efforts in countries including Japan, England, Germany, South Korea, Mexico and Canada.

Guides to the Good Stuff: To take advantage of the exploding popularity of social media, and provide potential visitors with an “insiders” perspective on the region, the SDTA launched a new digital campaign called “Guides to the Good Stuff.” The ads featured well-known locals, including surfing legend Rob Machado and Food Network chef Marcela Valladolid, touting all the wonderful things San Diego has to offer. The rich media digital display advertisements featuring the guides ran throughout the western United States, including key spot markets, delivering more than 100 million gross impressions for San Diego.

New Meetings Market Campaign: In October, the SDTA launched a new meetings-focused advertising campaign, “Forecast: Success.” The campaign broadens San Diego’s meetings product and appeal by promoting unique and undiscovered locations for groups to convene outside of the city’s urban core. “Forecast: Success” highlights the unique qualities of three San Diego sub-regions: Mission Valley, Mission Bay and University Town Center. Emphasizing San Diego’s diverse assets, the campaign comprises a series of print and digital advertisements targeting the meetings market and key business leaders nationwide that play off noteworthy meeting products.

Focus on Neighborhood Arts and Culture: To showcase San Diego’s vibrant neighborhoods, the SDTA produced a series of video shorts featuring nine communities’ unique arts, culture, shopping and dining.  Done in partnership with the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the series highlighted Barrio Logan, City Heights, La Jolla, Mission Valley, Miramar-Clairemont, Point Loma/NTC at Liberty Station, North Park-South Park, Northeastern San Diego and Southeastern San Diego. The video series represents one component of a renewed partnership with the Commission for Arts and Culture to market San Diego as a cultural destination.

Outreach to Mexican media outlets: The SDTA has expanded its efforts to market San Diego to Mexican travelers. In the fall, representatives from the SDTA public relations team visited Guadalajara to conduct desk-side editorial meetings with media. The SDTA is also working to expand dedicated social media outreach in Spanish, including Spanish language Facebook and Twitter accounts for San Diego.

Additionally, the SDTA will launch several new initiatives in 2015, including a new brand marketing campaign that will debut in February and a documentary produced by National Geographic highlighting San Diego as one of their “World’s Smart Cities.”


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