Yesterday’s mad hotel rush left us drained and disconsolate. We know we’re spoiled when getting a room one block away instead of three blocks away is cause for sorrow, but this time, for the first time ever, we were DENIED, like so many others. Like bitter, angry con goers around the world, we experienced the agony of selecting our favorite hotel, putting in our credit card number and hitting confirm…only to be confronted with a spinning beach ball for the next two hours. While anecdotal evidence would suggest the Travel Planner servers melted, that is really besides the point. It’s a lottery, and it’s been a lottery for a few years now. Close rooms were undoubtedly gone within 15 minutes or so, and by an hour in, only the dregs of Mission Bay were left. The whole “your request will be answered in the order received” malarkey is a nice idea but no server can withstand that kind of assault for long. It’s random, it’s chance, and we all need to accept that.
Luckily we had an entire team manning the computer lines, and got another room at the new Hilton. Plasma TV and beach side cafe, here we come! Others were not so lucky. And we feel their pain. But, in the end…that’s how it is now.
Even the New York Times covered the big event with a blog post by Michael Cieply:
About 125,000 fans visit the convention over four days, almost triple the typical attendance at the Sundance Film Festival, which stretches over a week and a half. In the summer, San Diego hotels fill up with tourists headed for Sea World, Legoland or a weekend of debauchery in Tijuana. So there is an annual scramble to land one of the rooms set aside for the convention by about three dozen hotels.
But clawing your way into an overpriced room in the Gaslamp Quarter is only half the fun. The really hard part is figuring out how to crack the security-barred doors of the convention’s giant Hall H, where the film studios preview their blockbusters, without standing in line with several thousand fans for several hours.
As of The Day After, outside hotel booking sites show a few rooms available, even some downtown: you can stay at the Marriott for $530 a night, for instance. The same room a week later goes for $269.
All this comes at a time when, believe it or not, San Diego is faced with a hotel room glut. San Diego County added more hotel rooms than any other place in California last year, with 2,049 new rooms opened in 2008. But the bad economy has made that a problem:
“With the economic fallout from the recession, there is probably no worse time for California to have a record number of new hotel rooms entering the market,” said Alan Reay, the report’s author. “Obviously, all those new hotels were planned during the boom years of 2005 to 2007. Unfortunately, they opened in what many are calling the most difficult economic climate in living memory.”
Since 2005, the state has added 24,000 new rooms, and as before, San Diego led other counties with 17 percent of that total.
Expensive corporate retreats are OUT in the new spartan economy.
Which makes our annual look at the money spent on Comic-Con even funnier this year. The 2008 Visitor report from the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau shows that the Single Can of Tuna Theory is still in effect. We’ve excerpted the report for easier viewing — the columns represent months from January on (click for a larger version):
As you can see, despite having 153,000 visitors in July, these pilgrims managed to spend a mere $32 million, far less than June’s 43,000 visitors who spent $79.5 million. That works out to the con’s 125K visitors spending exactly $272 each. Or, $68 a day. Obviously, they all slept in their cars and bought a single $5 footlong from Subway to see them through the day and a lone caramel frappuccino as a rare escape from their miserable existence.
Exactly how this jibes with the city’s 16,000 or so downtown hotel rooms all being booked solid at $300 a night is hard to explain, but we’re sure that someone at the CVB can tell us.
Maybe the CVB can also explain this search result for the term “comic-con” among their events:
Obviously, the non-existence of the con to city event planners has nothing to do with the hotel room shortage. But it is fun to point out every year.
As Tom and Mark and everyone else point out every year, you need to just bite the bullet and book your room for next year when you leave the show. The hotel lottery is too stressful and arbitrary for the needs of the very important people who actually make the comics. And everyone gets that now.
UPDATE: Oh PS, for all you number crunchers, lest we forget, David Glanzer has said many times that the con’s own economic impact study showed $60 million in spending:
In regard to dollars spent; the city has figures based on an economic impact study that shows Comic-Con spending at roughly $40,000,000. I’m not sure of their formulation, but our own survey, showed that attendee spending alone (this does not include our own expenditures for center rental etc., or exhibitor expenditures) topped $60,000,000. And that was just for attendee lodging, food, and purchases. Again, that figure does not include exhibitor expenditures, movie studio expenditure, or our own expenditures in putting on the show.