The year 2020 was supposed to be a festive year. It marks the tenth anniversary of Discover Coronado and there was much to celebrate. The Hotel del Coronado renovation was nearing completion and record convention business was producing a steady flow of meeting attendees into local businesses. Instead, 2020 will be the most challenging year on record.
Thankfully, Discover Coronado is no stranger to adversity. It was established in 2010 to reverse the impact of the Great Recession of 2008. Under the direction of Coronado City Council, the organization has self-funded strategies to attract group meetings (conventions, executive events, conferences) and other overnight guests to Coronado.
Although Discover Coronado reports to Coronado City Council, it does not receive funding or grants from the City of Coronado. Overnight guests pay a transient occupancy tax plus a separate assessment that Discover Coronado uses to advertise. In 2019, a peak year, the transient occupancy tax (TOT) collected from overnight groups and guests reached $15 million. In the same year, group meetings at the four Discover Coronado resorts produced an economic impact of $92 million nationally.
The coronavirus pandemic has erased a decade of TOT growth associated with the work of Discover Coronado. In 2020, the revised projection for TOT in Coronado will be closer to $6 million (60% less). The transient occupancy tax is used by the City of Coronado to underwrite public safety, public works, public facilities and city staff. Because of strong city reserves, there will be no reduction of these services.
Forecasters project some recovery for the travel industry in 2022, but the group meeting industry won’t stabilize until 2023. Hotels, including the Coronado resorts, won’t rebound until 2024.
Instead of just waiting for the convention business to start again in 2022, Discover Coronado pursued other “heads on beds.”
In May, the Board of Directors for Discover Coronado approved a pivot to leisure (non-convention) travel because they are simply the only guests Coronado could hope for in 2020.
In late June, a new marketing campaign that targeted overnight guests from Los Angeles, Orange County and Arizona was launched. Because San Diegans don’t need hotel rooms, day-visitors from across the bridge were not marketed to.
The campaign utilizes multiple marketing platforms that promote overnight “stay-cations,” extended weekend trips and family vacations on Coronado Island. Channels include internet banner ads, YouTube, Google keyword search, streaming services and social media outlets.
To help struggling shops and restaurants, Discover Coronado also funded tactics to promote Orange Avenue as a vibrant destination, the launch of OrangeAvenue.com, brochures that spotlight each local business and a distribution system for the brochure that reaches 529 locations. These efforts come at no cost to local businesses or commercial property owners.
Once group meetings are approved by the State of California, Discover Coronado will launch a business-to-business marketing campaign that targets corporate event planners.