"We thought, 'How can we go out and tell people that if they haven't been to San Diego in 10 years, things have changed?' " recalls Kerri Kapich, 37, the bureau's VP-marketing. The bureau has made the most of its relatively modest $6 million annual ad budget, particularly with sassy outdoor boards in key western cities created by San Diego agency Di Zinno Thompson. At Los Angeles International Airport, San Diego promotes itself at the expense of its freeway-jammed neighbor. "Welcome to L.A. Population: Way too many," it says.
The efforts are bearing fruit. San Diego landed on the top 10 destinations list of Conde Nast Traveler's November 2000 readers poll, a first. San Diego attracted 15.2 million overnight visitors in 2000-up by more than 6% from 1997, when the bureau started the branding campaign. Visitor spending also was up to $5.2 billion in 2000, a 21% increase from levels of four years ago.