Tourism leaders continued to warn against proposed ballot measures aimed at redirecting tourism marketing funds toward a potential downtown hybrid stadium with convention space, at the annual meeting of the San Diego Tourism Authority.
“The tourism landscape is more competitive than ever,” said authority President and CEO Joe Terzi, during a gathering of industry and city officials at SeaWorld San Diego on May 5. Terzi said proposals to eliminate the city’s Tourism Marketing District (TMD) could seriously hamper efforts to compete with growing rival markets including Anaheim and Los Angeles.
The Tourism Marketing District, which funds the bulk of the tourism authority’s budget, collects a 2 percent tax assessed on room bills at hotels in the city. It is targeted for elimination in measures proposed for the November ballot by two entities – a citizens coalition, and the San Diego Chargers.
The citizens group is seeking to raise the city’s separate current transient occupancy tax (TOT) on hotel room bills from 10.5 percent to 15.5 percent; with the Chargers aiming for a 16.5 percent rate as part of plans to finance a $1.8 billion hybrid facility in East Village.
Tourism authority and convention center leaders continue to support a contiguous expansion of the current downtown waterfront facility, citing that preference among organizers of large conventions.
Tourism authority officials said the marketing district since its 2008 inception has raised the annual budget for local tourism promotion from approximately $9 million in 2007 to its current $29 million. The TMD tax also allows all proceeds from the current 10.5 percent TOT to be placed in the city’s general fund for basic municipal services.
Tourism officials reiterated the authority’s earlier report that the local region had 34.3 million visitors in 2015. Those visitors spent $9.9 billion and generated $246 million in hotel tax revenue countywide.
San Diego tourism employs 183,000 and is the local region’s second-largest economic generator after the defense industry. Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., said tourism’s importance to the local economy “cannot be overstated.”
San Diego Tourism Authority is a private, non-profit entity established in 1954 and is the region’s primary tourism promotion agency. In January, it launched a $10 million advertising campaign that targets several major cities in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.