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Monday, Jul 15, 2024
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Tired Superheroes, Hungry Zombies Are Economic Assets for S.D.

Overall Economic Impact: $143 million

Direct attendee spending: $82.8 million

Hotel and Sales Tax Revenue: $2.98 million

Hotel Room Nights: 62,922

Convention Center Staffing: More than 500, including full-time, part-time and temporary workers

Sources: San Diego Convention Center Corp., CIC Research Inc.

These days, the ripple benefits of Comic-Con International, the largest convention held annually in San Diego, extend well beyond the exhibitors seeking to impress the 130,000 attendees, or the hoteliers selling thousands of rooms to those pop culture devotees every July.

Also dipping into a $143 million wellspring of regional economic impact are the restaurants, bars and other local venues catering to thousands more costumed revelers unable to snag tickets, sold out months before this year’s confab running July 20-23 at the San Diego Convention Center.

The mobile-app-enabled ride-hailing services — led by Uber and Lyft — and home-sharing sites such as Airbnb are also now among the well-established benefactors, capitalizing on the desire of visitors to navigate traffic jams and avoid peak hotel prices in one of San Diego’s busiest tourism months. (The Del Mar Racetrack’s prime summer horse-racing season kicks off July 19, the same day that Comic-Con launches with an evening preview event.)

City and convention center officials have estimated that Comic-Con by itself generates nearly 63,000 hotel room nights. San Francisco-based Airbnb recently described Comic-Con as a well-known “hotelpocalypse,” when the region’s room occupancy is near 100 percent and it’s nearly impossible to get a room that wasn’t booked well in advance.

19,000 Airbnb Guest Arrivals

Data provided by an Airbnb spokeswoman indicates that the home-sharing service is projecting 19,000 guest arrivals at local host locations during this year’s Comic-Con, a 35 percent increase over last year’s event. The typical local host earns about $1,000 during the confab, and host earnings this year are expected to total $7 million, up 40 percent from a year ago.

Similarly, San Francisco-headquartered Lyft has also made hay in recent years during the local July rush. While not providing specific ride numbers, the company’s local passenger volume during Comic-Con 2016 was 1.5 times greater than that for the year-earlier event, and Lyft expects the 2017 ride count to double the 2016 number.

Attention Seeking

These companies are on top of the hundreds of comic book, TV, movie, videogame and other product purveyors that will make grabs for the attention of fans and global news media inside and outside of the convention center during Comic-Con.

Among the most active on the media side will be Warner Bros., which will be hawking upcoming movies including D.C.’s “Justice League,” “Aquaman” and “Blade Runner 2049,” not to mention several superhero-focused TV shows that it produces.

Toymaker Mattel Inc. has promised a “huge presence,” with offerings including new mini-cars fashioned after characters from the movie “Cars 3.” And even shaving products maker Schick plans to get in on the act, with a first-of-its-kind comic book called “Hydrobot and the Transformers,” tying in with the company’s new-tech Hydro Escape razor.

Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said more than 1,000 companies will have booths and demonstrations at this year’s gathering, including first-time comics and arts-publishing exhibitors from Russia, New Zealand, Chile, China and France.

“One of the things we always try to ensure is that the exhibitors speak to the attendee as a fan, not just a marketing tool,” Glanzer said. “We often suggest that exhibitors, and panel presenters, share information with the audience as opposed to just selling.”

Keeping Con

Despite the fact that organizers have been courted for the past several years by rival cities, and have made clear that the event is outgrowing its current venue, Comic-Con has been held in San Diego every year since its 1970 debut and at the convention center since 1992.

Organizers recently extended the local stay for another three years, to 2021, as city officials figure out how to finance a long-sought expansion of the waterfront facility — possibly with a hotel tax hike that could go before voters in 2018.

Glanzer said convention space and hotel room prices are among several factors that will play into the event’s future venue plans.

“We have been able to make due with park space and ballroom space at area hotels and the like for a few years now,” he said. “We would like to be able to welcome more attendees to the show and even more exhibitors, as there is currently a wait list for exhibitors at the show.”

“An expanded center would potentially allow us to do both,” Glanzer added.

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