SAN DIEGO — San Diego Convention Center business is on track to rival pre-pandemic years.
Since events have returned with no restrictions, some of the biggest like the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in town this week, are helping the local economy continue to bounce back.
“Being back in person again I think is the most rewarding way for people to share ideas and collaborate with each other,” said Ryan Strowger, a member of OFC management.
Just last year, events were still having to follow pandemic restrictions. In 2021, many events were canceled or like OFC, went fully virtual.
“The great fun of it is a lot of those technologies are enabled by what you see here on the show floor,” Strowger said.
The tech conference is among those with the largest economic impact at the convention center annually because of its size. More than 10,000 people registered for the event, representing 70 different countries.
OFC is a repeat visitor to San Diego, with this year set to bring in nearly $24 million in direct attendee spending and about $41 million regionally to the local economy.
“Many of them coming from all over the world to experience everything that we have not just on the show floor, but what the city has to offer as well,” Strowger said.
Between March 2020 and July 2021, convention center representatives say more than 150 events were canceled, postponed or turned virtual. The events would have produced an estimated economic impact of $2.3 billion and an estimated $50 million in tax revenue for the City of San Diego.
The convention center went from hosting zero events during that period to booming with business once again.
“What we’re seeing now is just so robust, so vibrant and so good for San Diego,” said Maren Dougherty, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications.
In fiscal year 2023, events at the convention center are estimated to bring in $826 million in direct attendee spending and a regional economic impact of more than a billion dollars.
San Diegans may also remember the convention center used as an emergency shelter during the pandemic for both the homeless and migrant children.
“That’s something we will always remember it was truly historic, but we are glad to be back and fulfilling our primary purpose as an economic engine for the region,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty also says San Diego is bouncing back faster than other parts of the country.
“Once that activity did start back up again, people wanted to come to San Diego, they wanted to meet in person. They may not have traveled for a while and so they came for the convention and they stayed for the vacation,” Dougherty said.