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San Diego commissions study to analyze convention market

San Diego Convention Center Corp., in partnership with the City of San Diego and JMI Realty, retained Convention Sports and Leisure International to conduct a study analyzing the current state of the convention and meetings industry and San Diego’s market position within the industry.

The study will provide current market estimates on the financial and economic value of expanding the convention center and will evaluate both expanding the current facility with contiguous exhibit space as well as an expansion of exhibit and meeting space near the current facility creating a campus-like environment. It will not be evaluating a joint-use stadium and convention center facility. The study is expected to be completed by mid-summer 2015 and will help guide in a variety of ways, including:

  • Help guide strategic marketing decisions for the convention center and any proposal to expand the facility. The last comprehensive market study relating to a proposed expansion was completed for the 2009 Mayor’s Task Force, using market research from the five previous years. The convention trade show market has changed the last 10 years due to large part to the economic downturn that began in 2008 and a changing meetings marketplace.
  • Evaluate current and potential client needs and expectations. The 2009 study contemplated the Phase III Expansion completion in 2016 and many of the clients surveyed required a larger facility to return to San Diego. The impact of the delay on potential and current clients decisions about returning to San Diego and their future meeting needs are essential information in shaping how San Diego moves forward with any expansion.
  • Determine if the prior goals for an expansion are still relevant. Those goals were to: 1) allow the convention center to retain existing clients needing a larger facility, 2) to host new clients who need a larger convention center than current exists and 3) to “double stack” several conventions at the same time. The sales and marketing team have continued to book the existing convention center well into the 2030s. Therefore, the full larger facility may not be available to meet two of the main objectives. The new study should help understand the impact.
  • Study both a contiguous expansion and campus expansion program with current and potential clients of the convention center to ensure that what is eventually built will serve our market needs. The research will provide comparative data needed to make decisions as to how to proceed with the project. Focus groups with clients will occur in both of our key markets, Chicago and Washington, DC. By talking directly to clients and doing new market research on the industry, the study can help inform the public policy discussion about potential benefits and risks associated with each expansion scenario.
  • Evaluate the impact of reduced hotel room inventory due to increased marketing efforts by large headquarter hotels to book in-house meetings thus removing room from utilization by clients using the convention center. The result could create weeks during peak convention months that the current and expanded convention facility would be under-utilized.
  • Answer how ongoing delays may impact San Diego’s leadership role in the convention and meetings marketplace and the risks associated with further delays in building additional meeting and exhibit space. Given both the ongoing legal challenge and need to develop a new financing mechanism, policymakers need to understand the economic impact continued delay and uncertainty create with current and potential clients of an expansion.


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