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December 31, 2013
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San Diego Convention Center Forecasts Strong 2014




2013 was not a great year for San Diego, with its former mayor generating decidedly unfavorable headlines, the tourism authority seeing significant cutbacks and plans to expand the convention center generating plenty of controversey. But with an expansion plan approved, 2014 seems poised to be a much stronger year for the city.

In the coming year, the San Diego Convention Center Corporation is expecting to boost the region’s economy in several ways. Perhaps most significantly, the economic impact from events held in the center is expected to reach $1.4 billion, with $606.7 million in direct attendee spending and total tax revenues nearing $20.6 million. 

So far, 111 events are booked for the center, with more expected to book in upcoming months. Of these events, 70 are primary events and are expected to attract over half a million out-of-town attendees. Total expected attendance is estimated at 858,115 with current figures expected to increase over the year. This marks the center’s highest attendance since 2008, when 951,618 people attended events.

“This is great news in terms of showing how attendance has bounced back to the level it was before the collapse of the economy,” Steven Johnson, a spokesman for the Corporation, told International Meetings Review. “This will increase the economic impact of events held in the building and the tax revenues that come into city.” 

The annual Comic-Con International is once again expected to be the Convention Center’s top economic generator, and medical conventions are also a staple of the facility’s business. 

Medical Conferences

Fifteen medical meetings are forecast to generate $425.9 million in regional economic impact in 2014. Over 121,000 people will attend medical meetings at the center and will provide $6.3 million in tax revenues for the San Diego region. Some of the major medical shows convening at the center in 2014 include the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Thoracic Society, Experimental Biology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Three of the five top events planned for 2014 are medical meetings, Johnson said, adding that the medical conference industry has become the primary focus of the Center’s marketing. “This facility has always attracted a large percentage of its business from the medical meetings industry,” he said. He praised the city’s strong medical and technological hubs as attractive for the overall medical industry. “We have a reputation for innovation and research,” he said, noting that technological companies like Qualcomm and Hewlett-Packard are based in the city, and that the nearby colleges and universities have strong medical research departments. “There’s a strong pull in terms of higher education components as well as medical and technological institutions,” he said. 

The Convention Center

Efforts to expand the current convention center have been ongoing for months, and, Johnson said, are continuing to advance. In October, the expansion cleared a major hurdle when it received the unanimous support of the California Coastal Commission. “We were thrilled by that,” he said, adding that, when the expansion is complete, the 750,000-square-foot venue will be the largest contiguous exhibit hall on the West Coast. “That will be a milestone in terms of advancing the economic impact of the facility,” he added.  

The City of San Diego and Port of San Diego have begun the next steps necessary to ensure the expansion project breaks ground in early 2015.

The completed Center is expected to open in 2017, and will include an additional 225,000 square feet of exhibit space, an 80,000-square-foot ballroom, five-acre rooftop park and 500-room addition to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. 

The expansion will help retain events that are outgrowing the current building, create space to attract new events and accommodate events that have been unable to fit into the current facility due to a lack of adequate exhibit space. For more information on the expansion project, visit conventioncenterexpansion.com.

Hotels in San Diego

In 2014, the convention center is expecting that convention attendees will book 690,000 room nights throughout the year. (The method by which the San Diego Convention Center calculates hotel room night numbers, consistent with industry practices, is based on estimates provided by clients at the time of booking, and does not take into account the amount of additional rooms that are booked out of the contracted room nights.) 

“San Diego is a good destination for business travel because it has 11,000 hotel rooms around the convention center,” Johnson said. Beyond that, he added, the city’s temperature on a December morning was a comfortable 78 degrees. “Come for a meeting and stay for vacation,” he suggested. 


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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox


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