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Sunday, Jul 14, 2024

Express Service For ‘Zonie’ Tourists

TOURISM: FlixBus Launches Summer Route to San Diego

SAN DIEGO – San Diego has long had a love/hate relationship with visitors from Arizona.
While “Zonies” have been part of San Diegans’ insider jokes for decades, the truth is people from The Grand Canyon State make up the largest portion of visitors to America’s Finest City.

According to the San Diego Tourism Authority, Arizona is San Diego’s largest market for tourists outside of California. According to SDTA’s latest data, in 2022, Arizonans accounted for nearly 6%, or about 1.7 million, of visitors to the region, with similar numbers reported for 2023.

For overnight visitors, Arizona’s share increases to 6.7%. Arizonans who stay overnight tend to stay an average of about four nights, one night longer than Californians.

Looking more closely, the city of Phoenix, 400 miles away rom San Diego, is also a major tourism player. Phoenix supplies the largest number of visitors outside of California, and these visitors also stay longer on average, the SDTA reports.

Phoenix travelers have an outsized economic impact on the region, spending, on average, 50% more than the average traveler. In 2022, the average travel party from Phoenix spent $1,500 during their stay, including day visits. Overnight visitors from Phoenix spent an even more impressive $2,060 per travel party.

Beatriz Pardelhas
Senior Associate, Business Development

‘A Win for Both Communities’

So it’s no surprise that FlixBus – North America’s fastest-growing intercity bus service – has launched of a new service between Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and San Diego County.

FlixBus previously had a stop in Los Angeles and travelers will find it “a significant plus” in not needing to transfer there, said Beatriz Pardelhas, senior associate of business development for the company.

The company’s newest route includes stops at San Diego State University, Old Town San Diego and near the Mexico border in San Ysidro.

“We are pleased to welcome the new FlixBus line between Phoenix and San Diego,” said Kerri Verbeke Kapich, COO of SDTA. “Arizona is our largest market for visitors outside of California, and on average, travelers from Phoenix stay longer and spend 50% more than the average visitor. Anything that eases and encourages travel between Arizona and San Diego is a win for both communities.”

Kerri Verbeke Kapich
San Diego Tourism Authority

Network of Partnerships

Flix partners with small regional operators, including many charter, limo, and tour companies, who integrate a portion of their fleet into the FlixBus network.

For the San Diego County route, it is collaborating with Jet Limousine out of Arizona and Chula Vista’s MIB Transportation.

“These operators usually conduct most of their business outside of FlixBus,” said Harrison Zischke, business development associate at FlixBus. “By working with these local operators who already own buses and have expertise in their regions, we can expand our network much faster. This collaboration truly embodies a partnership, leveraging the strengths and resources of both FlixBus and our partners.”

David Chavez, lead dispatcher for MIB Transportation, said the FlixBus has been part of its fleet for nearly a month. ADA approved, the bus seats 49 people and has been in regular use.

David Chavez
Senior Dispatch
MIB Transportation

“Many people have taken Flix already,” Chavez said. “We have taken multiple people to Phoenix and back. We go out there three times a week. We have multiple drivers who have had the training for the FlixBus, so we have multiple options.”

FlixBus’s reach in California also includes express routes to Orange County, Los Angeles (Long Beach, downtown and more), Santa Barbara and part of the central valley, including Bakersfield Fresno, as well as connections from LA to most major U.S. cities, Zischke said.

The bus will operate throughout the summer until September, and also along the way serve Yuma, Arizona, Calexico and El Centro.

The company keeps sustainability as a key focus, and is piloting solar panels on some buses to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the chances of breakdowns and also places a strong emphasis on technology, Zischke said.

Harrison Zischke
Business Development Associate

“This includes a customer-facing app with features like live tracking, map integration, QR code tickets and seamless technology for drivers to scan tickets and board passengers efficiently,” he said.

In conjunction with its partner brand Greyhound, travelers are able to connect with FlixBus and Greyhound on either brand’s websites and apps, allowing for an extended network reaching more than 2,300 destinations across North America.

Global Tech/Mobility Company

Flix is a global mobility provider and combination of tech start-up, e-commerce, and classic transport operator that was founded in 2013 in Germany. It added FlixTrain in 2018.

Flix started as the FlixBus start-up, founded by entrepreneurs Jochen Engert, André Schwämmlein and Daniel Krauss in Munich, out of the desire to make sustainable travel both comfortable and affordable.

Since 2015, Flix has also been gaining ground internationally. There are long-distance bus networks in France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Croatia, as well as regular cross-border service to Norway, Spain and England. Flix operates in more than 40 countries including the USA and South America with an international team of more than 3,000 employees in more than 20 locations.

San Diego Tourism Authority
BUSINESS: Nonprofit mutual benefit corporation with nearly 1,000 members promoting San Diego
BUDGET: $27M (generated through public sources [San Diego Tourism Marketing District] and grants as well as membership dues and other sources of income, such as events)
WEBSITE: sandiego.org
CONTACT: 619-232-3101
SOCIAL IMPACT: San Diego Tourism Authority’s Tourism Accelerator program seeks to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tourism industry.
NOTABLE: SDTA’s mission is to drive visitor demand to economically benefit the San Diego region with a vision of leading San Diego to become the most desirable destination.


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