A Swiss airliner lands at San Diego International Airport
A Swiss airliner arrives at San Diego International Airport. Image from airport video

By Joe Terzi

Business today is done on a global level. Consumers have a world of choices when it comes to which brands to buy and how to spend their dollars.

Every day customers have multiple choices when making their purchasing decisions — whether it’s the coffee shop near work or the car they drive to get there. Customers make these decisions in marketplaces where companies compete for consumer dollars.

The travel and tourism market is no different.

As much as we embrace San Diego for its beauty, attractions, restaurants, cultural and recreational activities, we have to compete for the nation’s and world’s travelers to come here and experience what we enjoy every day. And the market for international travelers is extremely competitive.

The United States, and our region specifically, competes with heavyweights globally to entice travelers to come here and stay in our hotels and resorts, eat in our restaurants, and shop at our retailers. In one moment, a Japanese family in Tokyo searching online for travel options will see one of our ads, and then a moment later, another country such as Scotland, Ireland, or Germany will be seeking their attention with eye-grabbing content and an invitation to experience their country.

Joe Terzi

And why is there so much attention on international travelers? Simply put, it is an enormous jolt for economies worldwide, and especially right here in the United States. As our country’s second-ranked export, international inbound travel supports $1.2 million American jobs and represents an $84 billion trade surplus.

Our region’s emphasis on attracting international travelers is obvious. In fact, the average family of four traveling to this country from overseas spends over $4,000 on each trip — staying in our hotels, purchasing items at our retailers, visiting our attractions and, of course, dining throughout our city.

To that end, we are proud to partner with Brand USA, a public-private partnership that affords destination marketing organizations, such as the San Diego Tourism Authority to scale our advertising budgets and reach potential travelers in markets throughout the world. Our partnership with Brand USA has enabled San Diego to reach eight international markets, including China, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Brand USA has featured San Diego in a variety of programming, such as digital campaigns in China, and a miniseries that aired in the United Kingdom on our craft breweries. These innovative campaigns harness our local sites and attractions and prompt those internationally to think of our region when planning their next trip.

Established in 2009, the partnership has been a tremendous success. Over the last four years alone, Brand USA has brought more than 4 million additional visitors to the United States. Those visitors represented $13.6 billion in additional spending in the U.S. economy, leading to nearly $4 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue that goes to critical services in our community. Finally, Brand USA supports an average of 51,000 U.S. jobs each year.

This program, at no cost to taxpayers, is an end-to-end solution for communities and regions of all sizes to effectively promote its attractions to travelers all over the world, sustaining travel and tourism jobs in local markets and contributing to our trade balance with countries across the globe.

To that end, we fully support its re-authorization in Congress, and we urge area lawmakers to do the same. It’s a partnership we are counting on to continue as we make our advertising and marketing decisions in the years ahead.

The cost of doing nothing is particularly steep. Losing any share in the international travel market would have serious consequences — to the tune of millions of dollars in traveler spending and a loss of jobs in travel communities across the country.

But that’s what happens in dynamic markets. There are winners and losers, and let’s make sure the United States, and San Diego, remain the top winners.


Joe Terzi is the president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority.

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