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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024
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Tourism – Curtain Rises on New Cultural Tourism Drive

Yeah dudes, the thought of San Diego’s tourism is undeniably awesome , sparkling beaches, a world-famous zoo and the much-celebrated climate.

Starting this week, a coalition of local arts and tourism organizations are hoping to paint a little depth into the sunny image.

On May 2, 12 major theater, museum and other arts groups, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture and several corporate sponsors will launch a $180,000 yearlong cooperative campaign that will market San Diego as a destination for arts and culture.

The announcement was timed for the start of Tourism Month in San Diego.

San Diego had been one of three major participants in a joint cultural tourism campaign with San Francisco and Los Angeles two years ago.

However, the county has never had the budget to specifically advertise its own culture in this kind of campaign, said Rick Prickett, ConVis’ director of cultural tourism.

Although it had been mentioned in the text of the San Diego bureau’s advertising, it needed a way to be a focus of its own, Prickett said.

The program’s title, “San Diego: Art & Sol,” plays off one of San Diego’s greatest attractions: sol, Spanish for sun. The marketing plan involves out-of-market advertising in national publications such as the New York Times, Playbill and the Los Angeles Times.

It also includes local marketing, promotions, booking packages between the arts, restaurants and hotels, a new Web site that mingles those deals, and 40,000 copies of a brochure that features ways to make a San Diego visit more enriching, organizers said.

Special attention will be paid to San Diegans, Prickett said. Nearly half the visitors to San Diego stay with residents, many of whom aren’t as familiar with the cultural scene as they could be, he said.

“It’s a vibrant arts community , and one that for the most part a lot of San Diegans don’t know about and God knows, a lot of tourists don’t know very much about,” said Josh Ellis, director of communications for the La Jolla Playhouse, one of the 12 arts members involved in the cooperative campaign.

For instance, Ellis said, San Diego has two major regional theaters , the Playhouse and the Old Globe Theatre , while Los Angeles and San Francisco each have one.

Also, there are three musicals coming to San Diego this year that could end up on Broadway, and no other city has as many, he said.

“There’s going to be more activity in the musical theater in San Diego this summer than there is in New York City,” he said.

Along with the Playhouse, the 11 arts organizations involved in Art & Sol are: the Old Globe; the California Center for the Arts, Escondido; the La Jolla Chamber Music Society; Lamb’s Players Theater; Mingei International Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Museum of Photographic Arts; Reuben H. Fleet Science Center; the San Diego Museum of Art; San Diego Opera; and San Diego Playgoers.

In order to be involved, each arts organization had to pay $10,000, which can be a sizeable part of their annual marketing budgets, Prickett said.

“Having the arts community make that first investment and take that first risk is just unprecedented,” said Victoria Hamilton, executive director of the city’s arts and culture commission.

The organizations do have marketing dollars, but not necessarily to promote to the out-of-town visitors, Hamilton said. Leveraging the money is a “great opportunity” to reach California and the West Coast, she said.

The Museum of Art had a $295,500 marketing budget last year, less than 10 percent of the museum’s annual budget, said Ellen Efsic, deputy director for institutional advancement. The museum’s funds for reaching tourists are limited, Efsic said.

“A market like Phoenix is much more expensive than it is here,” she said. “New York City is pretty much out of the question.”

ConVis’ contacts and familiarity with the major markets is invaluable, Efsic said.

“We know our collections, we know our exhibitions, we know our treasures in-depth,” she said. “It pools our experience with their experience. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

According to Hamilton, an additional goal for this first campaign is to gain more support from the corporate and tourism industries.

Along with the arts organizations, the Commission for Arts & Culture put in $24,000. ConVis gave $26,000 directly to the project, with an additional $200,000 in media buys, production costs, staff time, public relations and promotions support.

Another $10,000 came from American Express, which is also donating marketing support, said Kerri Kapich, ConVis’ vice president of marketing.

The company will feature the program on 700,000 cardholders’ monthly billing statements and will give the campaign access to its direct mail list. Locally, American Express will put the Art & Sol logo on its point-of-purchase window decals and credit receipt holders.

The cultural tourist tends to spend more money than the average tourist, Prickett said.

“They like nice things,” he noted.

Research done last year indicates that the cultural tourism market tends to be affluent , 39 percent have household incomes over $75,000, Prickett said.

The market’s median age is 46, its median income is $48,000, and it tends to be couples and singles, particularly women, he said.

On a national level, the tourism industry has found that visitors are increasingly adding cultural experiences to their travel, he said.

It can be a balm to hectic lifestyles, a way to stay grounded and connected, Prickett said.

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