San Diego’s economy…again

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SDLOGO%20copy San Diegos economy...again
We’re interrupting our ongoing attempt to sort through our San Diego-related email to note something rather curious.

You see, The Beat and Future Mr. Beat are staying on Monday night in San Diego to chill out, detox and simply sit staring silently into space. Our accommodations are still in a state of flux, but this morning The Beat was checking on hotel prices and was pleased to see you can get all kinds of rooms for reasonable rates and not $400 a night.

This got us thinking. Since the Comic-Con is far down the list of San Diego’s most profitable events, we wondered whether hotel rates would again skyrocket the next weekend for those far more profitable events. The answer: No.

Back in January we noted that the annual ESRI convention is considered to have a larger economic impact on San Diego than Comic-Con:

This PR from the mayor’s office admits that Comic-Con is an important piece of return business for the city, but says the Environmental Systems Research Institute show is an even BIGGER part of the city’s economics, attracting approximately 15,000 specialists in geographic information system software. These 15,000 map-muddlers generated some $46.5 million in economic impact for San Diego in 2006. Comic-Con? A mere $32.1 million. Doing the math, a geographer computer nerd spends $3100 in San Diego. A stormtrooper, a scant $267 (based on an estimate of 120,000 attendees in 2006).


This idea was echoed in this story from the New York Times:

And it is decidedly low-rent. No. 33 on the official tip sheet lists the grocery chain Ralph’s Market as an alternative to dining out. The Bio International Convention in San Diego, a gathering of the biotechnology industry, with one-sixth as many attendees, produces about double Comic-Con’s $41.5 million in economic impact on the city.


So we decided to do a little comparison shopping.


Our first stop: the San Diego Convention Center’s official site, where we looked up some upcoming summer events. There we came across this shocking visual (click for a larger version):
comicon tm San Diegos economy...again
CCI has ZERO attendees? Really? We’ll be charitable and guess that the website’s database cannot handle a number greater than five figures. Surely, that must be the reason, since nothing else remotely that big ever comes to town.

We continued on to the weekend of the ESRI convention, whose 15,000 attendees outspend Comic-Con 10 to 1. Would hotels be available during this eagerly awaited, worldwide beloved event? Below is a printout from Hotel.com of downtown hotel availability. Again, click for a larger version.

sdhotels tm San Diegos economy...again

For kicks, we clicked on the same hotels for the weekend of Comic-Con.
sdhotelsdcc tm San Diegos economy...again
Quite a difference, eh?

Once again, we call shenanigans. Based simply on the number of party invites and event information we’ve received this week, the 125,000 Comic-Con attendees spend a LOT more on HOTEL ROOMS alone than map muddlers, liver lookers or a bridal bazaar. In fact, let’s say a mere 20,000 of San Diego’s attendees are there on an expense account and paying going rates for hotels and so on, and spend a minimum of $2000. (Easily done based on our own expense reports every year.) That ALONE would generate $40 million. If the remaining 105,000 attendees at CCI spent a MINIMUM average of $67 (the “single can of tuna” theory), that alone would generate $7 million, for a total greater than the map muddlers.

Of course, there is little use in pointing this out. The San Diego city fathers are unlikely to ever accept Comic-Con as the world-famous event that it is. It must gall some of the locals that their city is now known as an adjective, just like Cannes, Sundance and Telluride. Admitting that the con brings in money to the city coffers is just too unpleasant a pill to swallow. So, the city within a city will go on, our own little Brigadoon.

Comments

  1. Heidi

    We had an agreement. No telling other people about Ralph’s.

    R!

  2. This seems…dickish. As if the hotel prices are jacked just for the show.

    So, the city PTB are once again demonstrating idiocy with regards to their biggest show. Why they don’t want to brag about a show that brings 47 mil is a mystery.

  3. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas the hotels rooms are cheap and plentiful. The worst place downtown is $35 a night and rooms on the strip are $75 a night.

    Plus the choice of bars for late night excitement is a little wider.

    So, why is Las Vegas a comic book proof city?

    Bill

  4. maija says:

    Because I hate Vegas?

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    Oh, is there a line to get into Ralph’s as well? (Wouldn’t surprise me…)

    Here’s my tip for all con-goers everywhere: on the way to the convention, stop at a supermarket (or deli or convenience store or whatever they call them in your neck of the woods) and purchase a box of non-chocolate breakfast bars. (I prefer the cereal-based type.) Snack on these nutritious bars while wandering around the convention center. You’ll save money (a box runs about $3.50) over the cost of convention center food, it’s healthier, you won’t have to waste time standing in line, they won’t spoil if you save some for the next day, and they are not messy. Individually wrapped, they can be stored in just about any bag or pocket.

    I also recommend breakfast buffets at the Marriott. Get your online group together, spend a few extra bucks and a few hours, and carb up for the day.

  6. Mark Coale says:

    If the nerdlingers sweat and stink in moderate SD, can you imagine how bad they would smell if you put them in 100+ degree temperature of Vegas?

    Yikes~!

  7. I’m glad this happened, because it gives me an additional example to use when people can’t understand why in the world I left San Diego at 17 with a vow never to move back. Having the world’s most perfect weather turns a lot of people into bland, smug ninnies who think the only interest worth pursuing is training for triathlons.

  8. Mat D. says:

    This just goes to show that the Comic industry is still considered the multi-racial retarded stepchild of the entertainment industry. The tone by detractors seems to be that we will spend our money on any sort of attention, be grateful for it, and should shut up. God forbid the PTB admit that a bunch of comic book nerds are actually good for something. I’ll still be there next week at the Holiday Inn on First Ave. There is a bar in there so feel free to say hi

  9. I love it when Heidi puts on the burn… unless it’s me she’s doing it to. Good job girl.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    Is the 125,000 count individual people, or is it 30,000 people visiting each day?

    And not to question the methodology, but when were hotel comparisons run? Are hotel rates more expensive closer to the check-in date?

    Still $32 Million is quite a bit of money. Then there’s the glamour of celebrities visiting. My opinion? CCI needs to do a better job of outreach to the community. Hold a Halloween-type parade through downtown. Sponsor workshops and other events months before the convention. Perhaps an outdoor “drive-in” film festival in Balboa Park.

  11. This just goes to show that the Comic industry is still considered the multi-racial retarded stepchild of the entertainment industry. The tone by detractors seems to be that we will spend our money on any sort of attention, be grateful for it, and should shut up.

    Likelier this is because nerd-con attendees tend to smell more and leave bigger messes. The problem with nerds is that they DON’T spend money, see. They are the cheapest creatures on God’s green earth.

  12. maija says:

    It’s my understanding that Comic Con counts 125,000 individual registered members. 4-Day passes count as one and individual day passes count as one. The latter might inflate the numbers a little for people buying multiple one-day memberships (unless they cross-reference the same name on individual day memberships and count them as only one).

  13. Ray C says:

    Cheese and crackers, move the damn thing to Vegas already.

  14. Lorena says:

    Well, the money that Comic-Con brings in pales in comparison to the U.S. Open that was held here last month. It brought in $142 million, according to a just-released study.

    And, lest we forget, many Comic-Con goers (like myself) are just locals enjoying their local con. So, no, I’m not spending money on hotels or expensive restaurants downtown. Lastly, anything I purchase doesn’t really impact San Diego’s economy (outside of sales tax anyway) since everyone on the floor is an out-of-town vendor.

    Now, do I think the city should be promoting this massive event with more local events? Yes I do. But who’s gonna pay for it? I’m going to guess that our little cash-strapped enclave won’t…

  15. A very salient point, Lorena. While the critical mass of hotel nights at something like Comic-Con is indeed massive, these “economic impacts” are inclusive of much, MUCH more, making events like a U.S. Open huge, indeed. Every time Tiger Woods plays a golf tournament, Buick shows up and has a hospitality tent with, like, $50,000 worth of catering. Many of these economic impact studies show that a single NASCAR Sprint Cup race can have a greater impact than four World Series games. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s those sponsor dollars going into massive catered events at convention centers and hotels and the like that make up a good amount of that scratch.

    I’d wager something like the ESRI event mentioned has a lot of catered parties and etc. with some very high tickets. Staffing, food, and beverage for a major venue such as PETCO Park is $35k minimum. That’s minimum. Throw a few things like that together, and those totals shoot skyward pretty quickly.

    Jim McLauchlin

  16. Alan Coil says:

    Las Vegas had a convention. It sucked.

    By that, I mean it REALLY sucked.

  17. Ivanjim says:

    There’s a future Mr. Beat? Somehow I missed this but wanted to extend some congratulations. When did this happen?

  18. The Beat says:

    Yep a very good point, except that there are about a dozen big catered parties going on at Comicon, at least three or four a night. They are probably not all as big as the Buick parties, but they ain’t all chopped liver either.

  19. agro23 says:

    I’ve been going to Con since 1978 back when I used to live in Diego.

    As far back as I can remember the hotels have not just disliked but have actively hated the attendees. Hotel San Diego, El Cortez, US Grant, Holiday Inn–it didn’t matter.

    The staff were always rude and dismissive and the hotels jacked up the prices for the show both to discourage the nerd swarm and to try to compensate in advance for damage and 8-people-to-a-room-ness.

    Of course jello in the pool, elevators full of ashtrays, and all night loud parties didn’t help any back in the days when the show couldn’t fill one hotel. But we didn’t really do it to ourselves.

    Con and con goers have a reputation that persists today even if it’s based more on legend than fact now. The hotels are on autopilot at this point regarding the event.

  20. Elektra says:

    I don’t know how Jim McLauchlin knows all this cool stuff about where the money people hang out, but I want to hang on his arm and get close to some of that bling.

  21. Could it also be that the purpose of the comic-con versus other conventions is about individual spending versus corporate spending? Visitors to comic-con are bringing every dollar they don’t spend on hotels and food to purchase product at the convention itself.

    Comic book publishers might have a number of dinners with clients and artsits, but nothing on the level of normal corporate conventions. The whole purpose of corporate conventions is to meet and spend money on clients or potential clients, to generate future sales. Comic-Con is about numerous small purchases immediately.

    I’m kind of surprised $32 million is still spent in San Diego during Comic-Con.

  22. I suspect these decisions are made by a fellow nicknamed “Ogre” who sits in an office screaming “NERRRRDSS!” at the city revenue report on CCI.

  23. Sphinx Magoo says:

    I agree with Ivanjim. Next we’ll be hearing hints about Beat Jr.

  24. Henessey Williams says:

    Enough disrepect from the San Diego officials. 1 September in Vegas is worth 2 Julys’ in San Diego.

  25. Future Mr. Beat?

    Mazel tov, Heidi!

    Looking forward someday to hearing about… (wait for it)… the Beatles!

    (Unless “Future Mr. Beat” is some Elseworlds deal. Or a Skrull.)

  26. I have a theory. Could the price hike in hotels have actually *increased* convention attendance?

    I present to you: Mr. X.

    Mr. X looks at the hotel prices, and says out loud (because he always speaks his thoughts out loud), “There is no way I can afford this on my own.” Think. Think. Think. “I should convince my other friends to come along, and we can split the price!” Mr. X thus brings along a few other geek friends who wouldn’t normally consider attending (because of the price). “But hey, we’re split a hotel room eight different ways.”

    I suspect this is a fairly common occurrence. If the hotels lowered the price, more attendees would probably get their own room, and leave their friends to fend for themselves, which they wouldn’t do without a den mother to lead them.

  27. edit: “we’re splitting” Oops.

  28. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I would SO not share a room with Mr. X. That guy never sleeps.

  29. rakarich says:

    I still say move the thing to Vegas. They’re hurting now (read the articles all over the net). They would welcome it with open arms.

  30. So, what’s the difference in time to drive from LA to San Diego versus LA to Vegas? Because I would say that the main thing keeping it in San Diego is the proximity to LA for studio executives and want-to-be producers looking to buy some IP on the cheap. Move it too far and risk losing the major studio attention lavished on the show which has helped make it what it is. Still, if it was in Vegas I could afford to go but San Diego hotel prices seem like some sort of sick joke (“honey, should we fix make the next year’s mortgage payment or blow it on a weekend in a convention center filled with smelly nerds?”). Thanks for pointing out the disparity Heidi.

  31. San Diego county offices can count all the pennies they want and compare SDCC to other wealthier events. But fact is, SDCC brings money and the media to town, and last I checked the nerdy ESRI convention wasn’t covered on E!, New York Times and various Hollywood media outlets.

    Money is not the final arbiter for a city’s reputation.
    If San Diego lost the comic convention, all the movie stars, Hollywood and press coverage then someone in city government would have some explaining to do.

  32. Torsten Adair says:

    The September Diamond Retailer Summit will be held in Las Vegas.

    Given the Disneyesque reality of the Strip (which technically isn’t Las Vegas), I think a comicbook/pop culture convention would be perfect. Heck, spread it out so it occupies different hotels! (Science Fiction/Fantasy could have the Hilton with the Star Trek Experience, SCA/Renfair could have the Excalibur, Movies would be at Caesar’s, Costumers would be at Bally’s, Comics at MGM Grand… videogames, toys, adult fun, barcon…)

    As a Nebraskan, I didn’t find the dry heat of Las Vegas in July to be oppressive. Of course, if you’re a fan, you won’t be outside much, and if you’re a hedonist, you’ll be out after sunset!

  33. Count me as one who’d rather move it to Vegas. Cheaper hotels, that are easier to find and close to the convention center? Sounds great. Bigger convention center that has more room for panels and the showroom floor? Bring it. And frankly, I’ll take the dry heat of Vegas over the (usually) muggy heat of SD any day. And of course there’s a LOT more to do after hours.

    Add all that to the fact that San Diego doesn’t actually want us, and it seems like a no-brainer.

  34. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m imagining the cab line at McCarron the Wednesday before a CCI, and I already want to blow my brains out.

  35. GeekHater says:

    you fuckin’ nerds. You want people to put up with your shit, shut the fuck up and pay the extra premium for it. normal people shouldn’t have to deal with seeing your sorry, arrested-development asses wandering around their city in your star wars and stupid-ass anime gear.

  36. Not to defend the hotels, but a possible factor in the price difference could be supply and demand. I don’t know how many of the 120,000 comic-con attendees are from out of town, but it’s probably a lot more than the 15,000 ESRI people. The prices may just be reflecting that most of the city is booked for comic-con months in advance. As for the amount spent during the events, I don’t expect too many comic fans are using corporate expense accounts, but the ESRI group might be. People tend to spend more money when someone else is paying.

  37. Calvin Reid says:

    Somebody suggested that San Diego residents attending the event don’t spend much on hotels or food. Which could be true, although why is it whenever I’m out walking the San Diego Streets, and ask some random SD native about Comic-con, why do they look at me like I’m nutty. The usual response I get when mentioning SDCC to a random SD native is that they’ve never been and don’t seem inclined to do so in the future.

    I’ve even got an old non-comics friend who has lived in SD for awhile and only visited the convention after badgering from me. Granted these are wildly unscientific samplings. San Diego has a great weather and a great comics convention, whether they know it or not, but its kind of a strange town.

  38. Mark Coale says:

    Sometime in the late 90s, the VSDA convention was in Vegas the week before Comic-Con and we went to both. I was never so happy to get to SD in my life, after four days in Vegas where it was over 100 when we got up in the morning.

    I would expect, given how Hollywood has taken over the con, there’s a better chance of it being in LA than being in Vegas.

  39. Mat D. says:

    “GeekHater Says:

    07/17/08 at 5:11 pm
    you fuckin’ nerds. You want people to put up with your shit, shut the fuck up and pay the extra premium for it. normal people shouldn’t have to deal with seeing your sorry, arrested-development asses wandering around their city in your star wars and stupid-ass anime gear.”

    Well when you put it that way…..yea let’s pack it up or hordes of spiky-haired, visor sporting, polo shirt wearing BROS will descend upon us and show us their wrath…..or their barbed wire/tribal bicep tattoos…

  40. ~chris says:

    Since I booked my hotel room directly– not through Comic-Con (more expensive that way, but I’m unable to leave work to even try to spend hours on the internet during the mad scramble)– I’m guessing all the $$ I spend counts naught towards Comic-Con economic impact.

    “So, what’s the difference in time to drive from LA to San Diego versus LA to Vegas?” Don’t ask me. I live in Orange County and take Amtrak. Who wants to pay for gas and San Diego parking?

    “Given the Disneyesque reality of the Strip…” Does Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland now have newspaper stands with the same contents seen in Vegas? ;)

  41. Tom Spurgeon says:

    He means Keith Disney, Walt’s stripclub-loving nephew.

  42. Henessey Williams says:

    As for the distance between cities, Vegas is maybe an hour and a half further to drive to. If you have the nerve, you can walk from McCarran to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in an Hour (Yes, I’ve done it).

  43. Everybody shut up about Vegas, already. We’ve already had this discussion. There was a convention put on in the fall of 2004 by San Diego Comic Con refugees who thought they could do better than the big show itself at the Mandalay Bay. Nobody came and nobody made any money.

    I don’t think any more needs to be said.

    ~

    Coat

  44. R. Maheras says:

    San Diego is nice the first time or two, but if I had my druthers, I’d opt for Vegas.

  45. barry says:

    Not seriously considering Vegas as an alternative to San Diego would be stupid, stupid move on part of the con organizers. I said “stupid” twice so you know i’m serious. STUPID. I said it again.

  46. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I think the con’s increasing attendance leading to a full sold out status in 2008 is an obvious danger sign that fundamental change must happen immediately.

    Not only should they switch to Vegas, but I’d consider dropping the comics for Longaberger baskets or maybe bluegrass.

  47. Mark Coale says:

    EXTROSION~!

  48. Sure, I popped off about Las Vegas way back when.

    I am saying that the Con going folks could support a show in Las Vegas, but it needs to crawl before it runs which was the ‘extrosion’ problem. That and the name sounded like a manufacturing process and gave no clue what the hell the show was about.

    While it can get to 115 degrees in the Summer, most comic conventions are not held outside.

    Bill

  49. Secret Identity says:

    But Tom, does Vegas have a zoo? And if it does, does it have Pygmy Marmosets?

  50. Secret Identity says:

    But Tom, does Vegas have a zoo? And if it does, does it have Pygmy Marmosets?

  51. Everybody shut up about Vegas, already. We’ve already had this discussion. There was a convention put on in the fall of 2004 by San Diego Comic Con refugees who thought they could do better than the big show itself at the Mandalay Bay. Nobody came and nobody made any money.

    I don’t think any more needs to be said.

    ~

    Coat

    Yeah…nothing more needs to be said in order to understand that a con started up by refugees who think they can do better might fail in Vegas.

    Good thing everyone is talking about the idea of the whole CCI, as it exists now, being relocated to Vegas…since that would bring just about all the same folks that go to SD. You’d be kidding yourself if you thought the companies wouldn’t attend it and, with their presence, bring a lot of the same attendees.

  52. All this reminds me of back in ’88 when I packed 11 people in to a Holiday Inn room and we had 2 guy sleeping on the balcony. If I was the manager of that hotel, I would sure as hell jack up the prices if people were sleeping on the balcony. Oh, no. I sound like an old, old man. Dammitt!

    Spurge – I like the bluegrass idea!

  53. Not really the point … the point made was that City Officials say that SDCC doesn’t bring in the same revenue as other shows. But if SDCC has 125,000 attendees paying $400 a night for room, versus 15,000 geologist guys at $200 per night — SDCC brings in way more money.

    The City Officials don’t want to admit that a major portion of their economy is relying on funny books.

  54. *happy sigh.* It must be summer, because we’re talking about SDCC in someplace other than SD again. It’s like the swallows returning to Capistrano.

  55. Tom Spurgeon says:

    They should totally move the show to Capistrano.

  56. I think people are renting rooms in Capistrano this year. (~_^)

    My husband is an escapee of San Diego and he says it’s always struggled with little-town-looking-sophisticated issues. They want to bring in more ESRIs and downplay the gobs of money SDCC brings. Add to that the extra resources the city has to expend that weekend (extra cops, etc) and they start to look rather fondly at smaller groups of people with bigger expense accounts.

  57. Has anybody in Vegas every said anything to the effect that they’d enjoy our business?

    And if so, is it anyone with enough pull to guarantee that the cheap hotels in Vegas remain cheap the week of the Comicon?

  58. Tom Spurgeon says:

    And can I marry that man’s daughter?

  59. The Beat says:

    Vegas always throws CES, an even BIGGER show than San Diego…the great maw of dreamland absorbs it like a tiny minnow in its chaotic fluxus.

    I am NOT in favor of moving the Comic-Con to Vegas. IT IS TOO F***NG HOT THERE!

    But I begin to despair over the city’s obvious hostility to the show,.

  60. agro23 says:

    One other thing to consider: As far as I know, everyone on the Con committee lives in San Diego. Why would they want to move THEIR show? They’d be relocating their jobs too. Sure they’re a multi-million dollar non-profit juggernaut but right now they can drive to work.

  61. JWH –

    Another point I would like to make is that some of us people who commute to San Diego via LA like to use the Amtrak or Metrolink.

    There is no amtrak to Las Vegas – nor any other train service to Las Vegas for that matter. IF AMTRAK were to get off it’s ass and not rely on government funding AND get that proposed BULLET TRAIN up and running then I’d almost be up for it..

    But as it is – with the cost of airfare becoming increasingly high and riding greyhound buses with smelly bums and derelicts being the most suck ass way to travel ( I use a alternative busline called Megabus to go into town in order to have meetings with my printer – it is absolutely the champagne of buslines only because most derelicts and winos don’t know jack about making reservations on the internet) there is really not much hope for convention attendees who don’t own a automobile to attend a convention out in the middle of a desert.

    And Las Vegas doesn’t really have that much going in as far as metro transportation goes – other than those double decker deuce bus that go up and down the strip.

    ~

    Coat

  62. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I met two people at the grocery store today who said they were from San Diego and I said I was going to Comic-Con and they beat me within an inch of my life.

  63. Cary,

    I understand that. But I’d hazard a guess that a vast majority of attendees don’t Amtrak to the convention. And, it would seem, that there’d be less price-gouging in Vegas since there are more available rooms and, possibly, lower airfares (based on what other posters are saying).

    As far as local mass transit, there’s always the possibility of shuttles to the convention arranged for the convention. It wouldn’t be the first convention that had shuttle routes from several locations. NYC has plentiful mass transit, but the NYCC still has shuttles from various locations directly to the convention.

    But I didn’t mean to be harsh or shoot down any reasons for not moving it to Vegas. I just think judging its potential for success in Vegas by several also-rans and their previous attempt isn’t a valid criticism. If this long established convention moved there, I’m pretty sure an overwhelming majority of the exhibitors would move with it. But any other reasons to suggest it isn’t a fine alternative are a completely different matter. :)

  64. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I find myself agreeing with many of the things this Zeitgeist fellow writes…

  65. Stacey says:

    Lorena,

    Not all of the vendors are out-of-town vendors. Off the top of my head, I know of three – an art supply store in Little Italy, Mysterious Galaxy, and Bloodfire Studios. And I’m sure there are more.

    And while there are a lot of locals who don’t get a hotel room (I’m one of them) or go out to restaurants, there are a lot who do get hotel rooms for the convience or go out to restaurants with friends they don’t get to see very often.

  66. I attended this year’s con. We stayed at the Sofia Hotel, about 8 blocks or so from the Convention Center. We paid $928 for 5 nights. The rooms were super tiny, but nice and the staff was great. I loved staying there, but if I wasn’t splitting the cost it would have been out of the question. I got the tickets through the Con and 20 some minutes after the lines had opened, this was the cheapest I found. All things considered, I got a good deal … for San Diego. I love visiting but am considering an international trip instead since I’m reaching that price point anyway. LA would be a nightmare. The idea of Vegas is great … but we live there.

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