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Veteran Hotel Executive Named to Head ConVis

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a nationwide search that produced nearly 50 candidates, the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau on Tuesday named San Diego businessman Reint Reinders president of the organization that is charged with developing the county’s tourism and convention industry.

Reinders, 47, with more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, replaced Dal Watkins, who recently retired as ConVis president after 18 years with the organization.

Reinders, a native of Holland, moved to San Diego seven years ago from Orange County to open the La Jolla Marriott. Earlier this year, after 21 years with Marriott, Reinders joined Ace Parking. Reinders linked his decision to leave Marriott to a “strong desire” to remain in San Diego.

ConVis Chairwoman Anne Evans described Reinders as an early favorite among ConVis’ board of directors. Reinders remained the “preeminently qualified candidate” among 50 potential executives who were culled from a nationwide search, Evans said.

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Evans described Reinders, who has been active in many local business and civic organizations, as a logical choice to lead San Diego’s tourism and convention industry “to the next plateau of excellence.”

But Reinders on Tuesday acknowledged that the convention and tourism industry faces an uphill battle. His appointment comes at a time when hotel and motel occupancy rates are at historically low levels, the nation’s economy remains mired in an economic slowdown and San Diego faces increased competition for a limited number of tourists.

Room occupancy rates that historically have ranked among the nation’s highest have tumbled to 63% following a wave of hotel openings, and rates will fall even further as more hotels open, according to ConVis estimates.

In the short term, Reinders said, San Diego should be able to garner extensive publicity--and, it is hoped, a wave of tourists--from the America’s Cup sailboat races and the baseball All-Star game that will be staged in San Diego in 1992.

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But Reinders tied longer-term success in bolstering San Diego’s sagging occupancy rates to expansion of the 2-year-old Convention Center, a solution to the growing homeless problem, a revitalized downtown and construction of an airport capable of handling international flights.

Reinders also foresees a stronger working relationship between ConVis and major hotel chains--including Marriott, Hyatt and Sheraton--that have recently established a strong presence in San Diego County. Those chains will increasingly market San Diego to conventioneers, according to Reinders. “In the past, (marketing) was left solely to ConVis,” Reinders said.

The city and ConVis also will have to fight harder for continued growth in the tourism industry, Reinders said. “We’re going to have to spend more money to encourage the growth of this industry,” Reinders said. “It’s a very competitive world out there.”

While room occupancy rates are down dramatically, San Diego has managed to report respectable increases in total room nights booked by local hotels and motels, Reinders said. Reinders said that San Diego’s tourism industry should make a stronger pitch for international travelers.

He also suggested that ConVis strengthen its ties with its counterparts in Mexico. “We feel very strongly that Mexico . . . plays a very important part in San Diego’s future,” Reinders said.

Reinders, a past president of the San Diego Hotel and Motel Assn., is also a board member of the Convention Center Corp., the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the Private Industry Council.


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