Big Numbers in 2016 for San Diego

With an updated ad campaign, big name sporting events and other popular draws, San Diego’s tourism economy should continue to shine in 2017.

A record 35 million people visited San Diego last year, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA), the private non-profit responsible for attracting visitors to the region.

“As a visitor destination, San Diego has never been more popular,” said SDTA President and CEO Joe Terzi. “Not only do we boast some of the nation’s most popular attractions like the San Diego Zoo and the USS Midway Museum, but more and more visitors are coming here to experience our welcoming neighborhoods and unique culture, while getting a taste of our diverse dining scene and award-winning craft beer.”

In addition to the record number of visitors, the amount of spending by visitors also hit an all-time high in 2016, reaching $10.4 billion.

Major events such as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the AMGEN Tour of California, and Comic-Con International helped fuel growth in 2016.  In fiscal year 2016 (July 2015 – June 2016), a record $267 million in hotel tax revenue was collected by local governments, which will help fund essential city services such as police and fire-fighting programs, street repairs and more.

Updated 2017 Ad Campaign

To continue building on 2016’s growth, the SDTA launched a $12.4 million advertising campaign in January, which includes television, print, and digital advertising.  The campaign features the highly successful Happiness is Calling “Signs” video ad, but with refreshed spots including updated footage and a new song.

The television ads will air in six core markets including San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and New York City. San Diego’s brand will also be seen on the pages of Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and other popular magazines, as well as on travel websites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia and Priceline.

In partnership with Brand USA, the SDTA is also running digital advertising in Canada and the United Kingdom during the first quarter, as well as advertising aimed at supporting two new international flights to San Diego launching from Frankfurt, Germany (Condor Airlines) and Zurich, Switzerland (Edelweiss Air).

Big Events Coming in 2017

In addition to a refreshed campaign, San Diego’s tourism economy will benefit from a number of high-profile sports and pop culture events expected to draw visitors from around the world:

  • World Baseball Classic (March 14-19)
    Teams from 16 nations compete for six games in the second round of this international series, which takes the field at Petco Park in downtown San Diego.
  • Red Bull Air Race World Series (April 15-16)
    Twelve of the world’s best pilots will come together from 10 cities and nine countries as they compete in a fast-pace, twisting air race for the fastest time and fewest penalties. The high-flying event will take place over San Diego Bay.
  • Gold Cup Soccer Doubleheader (July 9)
    The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association of Football (CONCACAF) heads to San Diego for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the official national team soccer championship of the region. Qualcomm Stadium will be the site of an opening round double-header featuring the men’s Mexican national team and three yet-to-be-determined teams.
  • Comic-Con International (July 20-23)
    The largest comics and pop culture event in the United States returns for its 47th edition.  The San Diego-born extravaganza attracts thousands of artists, celebrities, and fans of comic books, movie memorabilia and all things related to pop culture.
  • KAABOO Del Mar (Sept. 15-17)
    Held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, this upscale music festival features seven stages and more than 100 musical acts and a dedicated comedy stage, as well as food and beverages from local and celebrity chefs, and San Diego area craft breweries and wineries.
  • Extreme Sailing Series (Oct. 19-22)
    Professional sailors take to San Diego Bay aboard a fleet of sleek hydro-foiling catamarans, capable of reaching speeds of up to 39 knots. San Diego serves as the penultimate race stop and is the only U.S. destination featured in this international racing series.
  • Breeders’ Cup World Championships (Nov. 3-4)
    One of thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious international events, the Breeder’s Cup will be held at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for the first time.  The world’s best horses, trainers and riders will gather for the $26 million competition.

For more event listings and up-to-the-minute additions and changes, visit

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