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Tourism Leaders Tout Progress, Challenges at Annual Gathering

San Diego tourism has come a long way from the depths of the Great Recession, experts said at a March 15 gathering of the local travel and hospitality industry, but the region still has challenges to overcome.

Those include meeting intense competition from other West Coast and international destinations, expanding the local convention center and obtaining more international air passenger flights to the region.

Local, state and national tourism leaders addressed a gathering of more than 900 at the 2012 State of the Travel & Hospitality Industry annual meeting, presented by the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, also known as ConVis. It was held at San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.

Experts said San Diego can benefit from recently accelerated efforts by Visit California, the state tourism promotion agency, and the newly formed Brand USA, a national nonprofit organization marketing the United States to international travelers.

“We’re going to have to collaborate like we never have before,” said Jim Evans, CEO of Brand USA. He said the U.S. needs to make back its share of the global travel market, which fell in the past decade from 17 percent to 12.4 percent.

ConVis President and CEO Joe Terzi noted that more than 31 million visitors spent nearly $7.5 billion at San Diego County businesses in 2011, up 5.7 percent from 2010. Tourism is now the region’s third largest economic generator, employing more than 160,000 and wielding an overall annual impact of more than $17 billion.

— Lou Hirsh

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