Convention Boom Brings Big Dollars, but San Jose is Still Emerging as a Tourist Destination
By Olivia Schaber, Editorial Intern
Silicon Valley Business Journal
San Jose’s tourism industry saw a lot of growth in 2016 — but despite a population of more than 1 million, it's still an emerging city. That was the message from Team San Jose, the city's tourism booster nonprofit, on Wednesday, when the group delivered its 2016 annual report. This was the first time the meeting was opened to the public.
The organization brought in $47.5 million in revenue to the city last year, it said, and had 1.48 million visitors to the venues it manages, which include the McEnery Convention Center, the City National Civic Center, the California Theatre and the Montgomery Theatre.
Events like Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, Facebook’s F8 Conference, Comic Con and FanimeCon were big revenue generators in the past year and will be a big focus for Team San Jose and the city going into 2018.
Team San Jose is a nonprofit separate from the city, although the city is its only contractor. Its focus is on marketing San Jose as a destination city for business and leisure travel. The organization says its initiatives boost tourism, which in turn benefits local businesses, restaurants, stores and hotels, among other industries.
Laura Chmielewski, vice president of marketing and communications at Team San Jose, said tourism creates “a halo effect.” This “lifts up not only visitation, it drives business development, real estate sales and college recruitment.”
While the focus is on bringing people to San Jose, part of the marketing strategy is to highlight San Jose’s proximity to other destinations such as the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Big Sur and San Francisco — not to mention Silicon Valley's global draw as the world's tech hub.
A key focus of Team San Jose is the international travel to and from the Mineta San Jose International Airport. President Trump's proposed travel ban — which has thus far been slapped down in court — is a big concern to the organization. Although the bans were ruled unconstitutional, the rhetoric surrounding them has had a chilling effect on international travel to the region, industry leaders said.
Ben Roschke, director of research and strategic development at Team San Jose, said overall bookings dropped 6.5 percent year-over-year the first week after the ban was introduced. On a different note, Roschke highlighted the growing awareness U.S. adults have of San Jose as a travel destination, which is now six out of 10.
Kim Becker, director of the Mineta San Jose International Airport, said in a video presented during the meeting that the San Jose airport is the fastest growing airport in terms of seats. Routes are now established and being promoted with Europe and China, but the bus doesn’t stop there. “Once airlines come here, we have to keep them here,” said Matthew Mahood, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Organization.
Dave Costain, chief operating officer of Team San Jose, said 2016 was also a big year for San Jose in securing capital funding. A $22 million upgrade to the McEnery Convention Center exhibit hall ceiling will begin shortly, as well as an upgrade to the air conditioning in the City National Civic Center building and the introduction of low-flow toilets in Team San Jose-managed buildings.
The arts were a big focus as well in terms of drawing large crowds into the downtown area. For the past 10 years, a dollar has been added to every ticket sold in the theaters managed by Team San Jose to generate a fund for theater upgrades and maintenance, when needed.