convention center front drive with attendee crowds
From the Vice Chair: Breaking Down Conventions By the Numbers

One of the questions I am asked most often about the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) is how we come up with the numbers regarding economic impact and direct attendee spending in San Diego. While we often talk about regional economic impact, which is approximately $1.1 billion each year, I like to focus on numbers related to direct attendee spending.  That is, the taxes that flow to the City of San Diego from the direct spending convention attendees do in San Diego. This is mostly for lodgings and food, but its impact is significant and a conservative look at how much money taxpayers get back from the convention center’s operations.

So, how do we figure out how much our attendees spend? We ask them. 

Every two years, SDCCC works with a company called CIC Research, Inc., a local marketing, economics and survey research firm. CIC Research reviews SDCCC’s data and conducts surveys of visitors to San Diego generally and the convention center specifically. In the last study conducted during calendar year 2015, a total of 4,005 face-to-face interviews were conducted with visitors throughout San Diego County, including 487 face-to-face interviews with SDCCC primary event attendees. Residents of San Diego County are not included in the San Diego visitor survey and are not included in CIC’s visitor analysis for the center.

It is important to note that CIC only looked at SDCCC primary event visitors. A primary event includes regional, national, and international conventions, conventions with trade shows, trade shows, and corporate meetings. In 2015, that was 527,000 of the approximately 910,876 total visitors to the Center that year. 

Because CIC focuses its review on primary events and exclude San Diego County residents from the study data, the numbers we provide related to direct attendee spending are also conservative because they often do not account for spending for other significant events – such as the San Diego Auto Show.

The SDCCC then takes the study and works with CIC to make sure its findings for direct attendee spending are accurate and updates the numbers annually. 

Importantly, we add information stemming from the center’s actual results for a given year to further refine the accuracy of these numbers. This ends up providing a more conservative number than that provided by CIC. For instance, if you look at a given year presented by CIC, the numbers the Convention Center releases will often be lower. Even so, the 2015 study shows direct attendee spending was $704 million resulting in $23 million in TOT revenue to the City. 

In addition, based on this study and utilizing methodology provided by CIC, the SDCCC determined that sales tax revenue of $1,136,222 was received directly by the City. In 2016, based on the study and its update, direct attendee spending was $721,047,316 resulting in $25,417,008 in TOT and $1,266,372 in sales tax revenue directly to the City of San Diego.

Now, I have told you about the report, its results, and how we use it. 

To make sure we are being fully transparent, however, here is a link to the actual 2015 CIC visitor report. Take a look at it for yourself.

Gil Cabrera
Vice Chair, San Diego Convention Center Board of Directors

Barbara Moreno's picture
Posted by Barbara Moreno, on July 6, 2017
Attendees, Events, News and Developments

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Connect With Us


Official Corporate Partners of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation: