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Chris Jones

San Diego Campaign Targets Las Vegas

28 April 2004

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego tourism officials hope to make waves in the desert this summer through their largest-ever media blitz encouraging Southern Nevadans to vacation in the Pacific resort town.

At the beginning of this month, the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau launched an extensive $225,000 marketing campaign that has since dotted the Las Vegas Valley with billboards and radio and television advertisements touting San Diego's seaside charms.

The bureau's vice president of marketing, Kerri Verbeke Kapich, said Tuesday the "Good Vibes" campaign represents San Diego's newly aggressive effort to capture a larger share of Las Vegas-area residents' outbound tourism activity.

"In the past we've not put as much money into the market and we've not been as specific as we've been at this time. This is a new twist for us," said Kapich, who added the Las Vegas-specific ads mirror market-focused campaigns San Diego officials have for years deployed in core visitor areas such as Phoenix and San Francisco.

Attracted by Southern Nevada's recent growth and future potential, the San Diego bureau in February conducted focus groups with local residents to determine which messages would best resonate with potential travelers living here.

"They told us we're close, but we're a totally different environment both from a terrain and lifestyle perspective," Kapich said.

Following those meetings, the bureau worked with San Diego-based advertising agency Di Zinno Thompson to tailor two related ad plans for Southern Nevada residents, Kapich said. Using slogans such as "Due south of 24/7" and "Change views not channels," one strategy targets adults who will travel without children; the second aims at those who'll bring along the kids.

The ads are scheduled to run through June to coincide with San Diego's peak spring and summer travel seasons, Kapich said.

Barbara Nemoir, an agent with the Henderson office of Dillard's Travel, said San Diego is traditionally a popular getaway for locals, particularly parents with young children.

"We still get more people who travel to Disneyland (in Anaheim, Calif.), but there are plenty of parents who want to take their kids to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo," Nemoir said. She said San Diego benefits because Las Vegas-area locals can get there easily by automobile.

Though unrelated to the bureau's campaign, many San Diego-area Indian casinos are also making a push for Southern Nevadans' business by placing numerous billboards along Interstate 15. Such ads would also catch the eyes of California residents heading home from Las Vegas.

This year, San Diego tourism officials expect their city will host approximately 27 million visitors, up 2.4 percent from last year's 26.3 million.

Nevada last year supplied about 4 percent of San Diego's overall visitor total, making it the city's third-largest tourism market behind other areas in California (approximately 40 percent of all overnight visitors) and Arizona (16 percent).

The vast majority of Nevada's traveler count originated in the Las Vegas area, Kapich added.

Regardless of where tourists come from, they're expected to spend more money in San Diego this year, when visitor spending is expected to improve to $5.4 billion, compared with $5.2 billion in 2003.

While that projected 3.5 percent jump in spending seems marginal, city officials note that last year's statistics were bolstered by hosting the 2003 Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. That event alone had a direct economic impact of $194 million, according to the National Football League.

This year, Kapich again expects much of San Diego's tourism activity will come from summer leisure travelers drawn by the city's beaches and several new attractions.

Downtown's new Petco Park, the first-year home of the Padres major-league baseball team, is already creating a buzz near the tony Gaslamp Quarter, Kapich said. Business owners are also looking ahead to the debut of SeaWorld's Journey to Atlantis ride, scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend.

In addition, the Legoland California theme park in nearby Carlsbad recently opened its new Dino Island attraction, while history buffs are anticipating the scheduled June 7 debut of the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum based on the decommissioned U.S.S. Midway warship.