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San Diego news and notes


Hurry, children, hurry. Only a few Thursday and Sunday tickets are left. We thought it would be sold out in April, but it looks like there will be slots available through May. Going for a single day may not be such a bad idea if you’re looking to get a taste of the big show.

As a reminder, professional registration ends May 5; press registration ends June 8.

§ We were cleaning out our email and came across this news bit from last week: San Diego Center Breaks Records.

The San Diego Convention Center announced record-breaking numbers for the 2008 fiscal year, which ended June 30. According to its Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report, the convention center generated an economic impact of $1.8 billion, up 15.4 percent from $1.56 billion in fiscal year 2007, and $32 million in tax revenues for the city, up 27 percent from $25.2 million a year earlier.

And what were the shows that contributed to this record breaking year?

Some of the highest revenue- and attendance-generating events held at the SDCC in the last fiscal year were the Society of Neuroscience’s annual meeting, Neuroscience, Nov. 3-7, 2007, which generated $133 million in economic impact and had 32,000 attendees; Siggraph Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Technologies, Aug. 7-9, 2007, $99.9 million in economic impact and 24,043 attendees; and Biotechnology Industry Organization Intl. Convention, June 17-20, $84.8 million in economic impact and 20,408 attendees.

Other notable shows included the Winter Fancy Food Show, Jan. 13-15, 2008, with an economic impact of $66.5 million and 16,000 attendees; Comic Con Intl., July 26-29, 2007, $41.6 million and 125,000 attendees; and Global Pet Expo, Feb. 14-16, 2008, $41.4 million and 9,963 attendees.

We’ll say one thing, those neuroscientists really know how to live it up!

  1. I wonder if this, ‘economic climate’ will make SDCC even more significant if those fancy schmancy scientists start spending less during their stay in SD?

  2. Whenever a report quantifies the economic impact of such-and-such event, I wonder just how those sorts of things are calculated. I’m sure that’s the sort of calculation that would be second nature to me if I were an urban planner or a mathematician, but still I wonder.

    Regardless, I’m curious as to what all could possibly be going on with this neuroscience conference that add up to all that economic impact. Although, I did find part of the website from the San Diego event that described dozens of “socials”, all of which someone had to pay for. I guess there really is money in the business of brain surgery ;-)

  3. Odd. When you figure out the dollars per attendee, it looks like this:

    Neuroscience = $4156.25/attendee
    Siggraph = $4155.06/attendee
    Biotechnology = $4155.23/attendee
    Fancy Food = $4156.25/attendee
    Comic Con = $332.80/attendee
    Global Pet Expo = $4155.37/attendee

    How do the others conferences, ranging in attendance so greatly, manage to nail that ratio in such a tight pattern?

    Of course, it’s *possible* that when you quadruple the size of the conference, something happens to make it an eighth as valuable as a “normal” conference.

    But somehow, i don’t think so…

  4. Possibly this has to do with a large number of attendees being from within the SoCal area, so they are basically doing day-trips, if not just taking the day off work and going. Has anyone ever seen number on how many con-goers are local? I’d be willing to be that 99% of the neuroscientists are from out of town…

    Anecdotally, I’ve never spent more than $700 myself (not including travel expenses, which I’m sure these numbers don’t). But… over $4000 for Siggraph attendees? What the heck? That doesn’t seem like THAT much more of an affluent crowd. That number is WAY off the charts for what I’d have thought. No one going to Siggraph shares rooms?

  5. Odd. When you figure out the dollars per attendee, it looks like this:

    Neuroscience = $4156.25/attendee
    Siggraph = $4155.06/attendee
    Biotechnology = $4155.23/attendee
    Fancy Food = $4156.25/attendee
    Comic Con = $332.80/attendee
    Global Pet Expo = $4155.37/attendee

    How do the others conferences, ranging in attendance so greatly, manage to nail that ratio in such a tight pattern?

    This article put each convention-goer’s economic impact at $1,500.


  6. Oh and PS: If you cut SDCC’s attendance in half and multiplied by the “golden ratio” you would get $260 million.

  7. And now for the obligatory “I’ve actually worked in the convention biz” post.

    1) At trade shows, the vendors take LOTS of convention goers out to eat. And I’m talking steak/lobster. So figure you’ve got $50-100/person for dinner, per night for a good percentage of that attendee list. How many of non-pro’s had DC/Marvel/etc pick up your dinner tab? (Or, the vendors might realistically spend more on meals for the attendees than the average SDCC-goer spends in total)

    2) Those not eating on the vendor’s tab are eating on expense account, not McDonald’s. Triple this for a food show. You have trouble getting into a decent place when the Restaurant show is in Chicago and we have a lot of decent places to eat.

    3) In-booth food. The San Diego Convention Center will bend you over if you want food in their booth. OK, most convention centers will do this, but San Diego is among the most militant on using their food (and their prices). Remember when Marvel tried to hand out milk & cookies and ended up having to throw it away because of the convention center? (That was Marvel, right?) Brother, I tried to get In ‘N’ Out Burger to cater the San Diego Convention Center for a medical show. No. Dice. Most tech medical shows will have some food service a few times during a show. Do you even get complimentary coffee at a comic show? I don’t think so. Here’s another lost revenue stream.

    3) Booze. The facility will charge for a cocktail reception on site, which is common for a lot of trade show. Not for comics. Again, like dinner, a major trade show will have several top-shelf, open bar events each night. At a comic show? Well, if Avatar has Warren Ellis in, maybe. Otherwise, not likely and certainly not multiple venues each night.

    4) Union fees – Fancy booths = fancy set-up = your convention union people. More AV = more union work hours. The booths aren’t that fancy in comics. Half a million spent on a convention booth? Not uncommon for pharma.

    That’s just four things off the top of my head. Trade shows and consumer show are NOT the same thing when you look at attendance and spending patterns outside the show.

  8. Todd, when is the last time you went to San Diego? As you walk up the street from the convention center, the restaurants are JAMMED with people. And every night there are three or four (at least) competing rooftop parties. Some nights there are seven or eight! Now granted, these tend to be smaller 200-300 people affairs, but there ARE a lot of them.

    I doubt it adds up to $260 million. But according to the SDCC website there are 10,000 professionals who attend every year. That right there is more than the Global Pet Expo!

  9. If the rooftops are bought by the convention vendors, then it all goes under convention revenue.

    Seriously, you have no idea how much vendors will drop at pharma conventions. Think about it – they’re trying to impress hospital directors and neurosurgeons…

  10. Did any of those rooftop parties have hired “guests” like PGA golf stars and celebutantes? Ice sculpture vodka fountains? Open bar with top shelf scotch? Ornate topiaries and floral sculptures? Bands you didn’t think did private gigs playing a private gig?

    While I think the SDCC per-attendee figure is skewed lower than it should be, there really is no comparison between what a med/tech/cuisine professional spends at a convention wining and dining potential business versus what an average San Diegan driving to the convention centre for the day to buy a couple of comics and maybe a pizza pretzel and can of Coke before going home to dinner and bed would spend. It’s people dropping a couple of hundred dollars on every meal versus people living on the $2-off expired Cobb salads from Ralph’s.

  11. Oh and the restaurants that are “packed” are only those right on 5th Ave. As a tip to anyone visiting SDCC: just go another block or two out, or upstairs in Horton Plaza and you’ll find a table with just a few minutes wait (or no wait at all).

    A lot of places thin out later too. I went out for a beer with a friend at one of the fake Irish pubs right on 5th Ave at around 10 and there were maybe a dozen other people in there, not counting the one-man band.

  12. I think the numbers for CCI are probably underreported a bit AND that there’s absolutely no doubt that the spending at these other conferences crushes the crap out of congoers’ collective outlay. I’ve been to a few of these type conventions and even one in San Diego and there’s no comparison as to the money seemingly on display.

    I would also dispute that the restaurants are all that stuffed as a collective whole, even on fifth avenue, but I prefer to think that’s because I’m so powerfully good-looking people seat me immediately ahead of other people. And while there are plenty of rooftop parties throughout the weekend, I’ve had people tell me outright they’ve had theirs on Thursday because it’s the cheapest evening to do it.

    I think the con is great for San Diego and they’re happy to have it and I suspect if anyone you encounter there has a negative attitude towards the show it’s because of a direct experience not because they have some perception based on numbers. And we’ve all seen people tip poorly, brown-bag it rather than use San Diego, be rude to hotel staff, fail to get out into the city, etc.

    I like the San Diego part of going as much I like the town part of any show I’ve ever been to. If they don’t think they’re getting people to spend enough money, maybe this will result in bigger discounts and more promotions aimed at getting people to spend money, and we’ll all get to benefit that way.

  13. Tom, I pretty much agree with everything you wrote there, although….I sincerely doubt that Fifth avenue is ANY more crowded during Siggraph than it is during Comicon.

    And agree with everyone who wrote that industrial parties spend HUGE HUGE HUGE amounts of money. Probably way more than Comic-Con. But, Maija, at the few “big entertainment” parties I have been to, there certainly were open bars and lots of drunk celebrities as a result. And, yes, I have seen ice sculptures at Comic-con parties.

    The reality now, is that corporate spending in many industries is being looked on askance. I doubt the pharma industry will be hit until we go Socialist all the way, but that could be a little ways in the future.

    I think we all have our own perceptions and ideas about the great monolithic event that is San Diego — what my takeaway from all of this is is from Skipper Pickle. Obviously, for whatever reason, there are two different scales for estimates here.

  14. 4-day passes sold out… Saturday passes passes sold out… Friday passes sold out… and now Thurs and Sun passes at 50% sold out… And The Beat advises people that getting those single-day ones “may not be such a bad idea if you’re looking to get a taste of the big show”?

    OH GREAT. More likely than not, after getting that little “taste” of the Con’s nerdgeek Prom/Mecca/Bridgadoon— all those SDCC newbies will want to go the NEXT year’s fest. And then the one AFTER that.

    Meaning: even more competition for Con tickets and hotel rooms every July… Thanks, Heidi! ;)

    (The above of course assuming that the comics economic bubble won’t burst at all, and that we genre fans will still be able to search out favorite writers and artists, attend an upcoming movie panel/tv show, look for that
    variant action figure MIP in San Diego. Instead of just worrying about the worldwide Depression, virus outbreaks, MidEast instability, Antarctic icecaps melting, zombies and/or CHUDS.)

  15. I’m guessing that a lot of those “rooftop” events and other special parties during Comic-Con don’t get counted toward the CCI income figure because they aren’t officially done through the convention so don’t add to the stats.

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