Hoteloween and the Softening Economy

As I reported before, the San Diego Comic-Con is huge, and unlike many other things, apparently unaffected by economic woes. For some comics- and pop-culture fans, it’s Christmas, Easter, and Disneyland at once, all wrapped up in one 4-1/2 day extravaganza. Last year, circumstance allowed me to go to the show casually, and it was and is amazing, but for me, the great masses of hyper fandom are overwhelming. That said, I think, like the 125,000 people who’ve already bought tickets, Peter and Neil can’t imagine a year without it.

One thing I eventually came to dread, so much that I’m prone to waking up from anxiety nightmares about it is the day hotel registration opens up for hotel room space in San Diego during the convention. It used to be mildly stressful when we had a preference for a hotel that was within walking distance and only $89 a night, and to get it, you had to be sure to call within the first hour of availability. But one year we made our reservations months later and ended up a mile away; and another year, there was a snafu, so we made new reservations at a slightly more expensive hotel further away, and it ended up being just fine too.

But around the time San Diego built a sports stadium next to the convention center, things devolved into complete insanity. For the past few years, just getting a hotel room at all has been a miracle, which might only be achieved by repeatedly speed dialing and refreshing web pages. My nadir was the year our staff ended up in Mission Valley (5 miles away from the convention) which required renting a mini-van for transportation and rousing the entire staff at 6:30 am to get into the van for a day of work that typically didn’t end until 9 or 10 pm. Peter and Neil (and their ilk) can sustain up to 48 hours of pure energy from simply having been in the presence of some crusty old comic book writer and that guy from Heroes. If they had to get up at 5 am or 4 am to do the show until 1 or 2 or 3 am, they would cheerfully do so (and judging from the ever-earlier opening times to ever-burgeoning crowds, this may yet become the case.)

I, on the other hand, am a mere mortal. After that year, I organized a calling ring in which the entire staff pounded the system trying to get the rooms we needed, and Loretta became a hero by getting us in a room on the bus line. Unfortunately, if there had been the slightest mistake in booking, we wouldn’t have been able to get a hotel room anywhere within San Diego, because within an hour the entire city was booked out. By this time, the booking process had been dubbed “Hoteloween” by blogger Heidi Macdonald, and it was marked by triage and moaning by all those who had tried and failed to book any room, even at $400 a night.

And so we get to this year. I was more on-edge than ever, but I did get rooms for our staff, thanks to the fact that exhibitors can book slightly earlier. I still have one detail to work out, but I suspect it’ll be ok (knock on wood). Everyone we know managed to get a room: more than one had hedged their bets by using multiple ins. In all cases, though not all methods worked, all ended up with the hotel of their choice, which is an unprecedented outcome, at least within the last few years.

So maybe our friends were extraordinarily lucky (or especially deft at the speed dial) but perhaps the con isn’t as completely recession-contrary as I’d thought. That said, it’s still a fact that the San Diego Comic-Con is sold out of their 4-day passes and every inch of exhibitor space–a full five months before it begins.

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