SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- For the first time in its 50-year history, San Diego Comic-Con International has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced Friday.
The yearly pop culture convention was scheduled to take place July 22- 26 at the San Diego Convention Center. Currently, the convention center is being used to house hundreds of homeless individuals and protect them from the spread of the coronavirus.
Comic-Con International spokesperson David Glanzer said, “Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and while we are saddened to take this action, we know it is the right decision. We eagerly look forward to the time when we can all meet again and share in the community we all love and enjoy.”
Comic-Con attendee John Phung told 10News hearing of the cancelation was crushing.
"It's my little San Diego staycation every year," Phung said. "That I take five days off of work from home, relax, have some good food,
In addition to fans, businesses will feel the crunch without the convention. Ann Callahan owns Hillcrest Bed and Breakfast. She's still reeling from the cancelation of San Diego Pride a day earlier.
"I've had a hard time focusing on just the business of day to day cancellations and I've been trying to figure out what my game plan is going forward," Callahan said.
Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University, said the loss of the convention this year will have lingering effects, especially downtown.
"With tourism accounting for about 14.5 percent of all jobs in San Diego County, it is going to exacerbate the economic damage from COVID-19, even as a plan to gradually reopen the economy may be starting to unfold," Reaser said. "Damage will be especially severe to the downtown area, encompassing hotels, restaurants, transportation, and various retail shops. The event's cancellation will also further worsen the city's budget prospects."
According to the city, Comic-Con guests generate about $149 million in regional impact to San Diego, with direct attendee spending totaling about $88 million and about $3 million in hotel and sales tax revenue.
Doubt was initially cast on the pop culture convention Monday, after Gov. Gavin Newsom said "the prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity,” or until a vaccine is developed. Newsom added that it was unlikely that California would allow mass until after August at this point.
Newsom’s guidance immediately prompted the Del Mar Fairgrounds to postpone this summer’s San Diego County Fair, set to begin in June, until 2021.
Comic-Con annually brings hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to the Gaslamp District over five days. Attendees mingle throughout the convention center, surrounding hotels, and downtown areas for onsite and offsite events.
For exhibitors who planned to take part in this year’s event or for those who bought badges for Comic-Con 2020, officials said the following:
"SDCC also announced that individuals who purchased badges for Comic-Con 2020 will have the option to request a refund or transfer their badges to Comic-Con 2021. All 2020 badge holders will receive an email within the next week with instructions on how to request a refund. Exhibitors for Comic-Con 2020 will also have the option to request a refund or transfer their payments to Comic-Con 2021 and will also receive an email within the next week with instructions on how to process their request.”
Regarding hotels, organizers said:
"In the next few days onPeak, Comic-Con’s official hotel affiliate, will be canceling all hotel reservations and refunding all deposits made through them. There is no need for anyone who booked through onPeak to take any action, including trying to cancel their reservations online or contacting the company via phone as the process will be handled automatically. Those who booked rooms through onPeak will be notified when refunds have been completed.”
Organizers said Comic-Con will return to the San Diego Convention Center from July 22-25, 2021.
This month, Comic-Con organizers opted to host sister convention WonderCon virtually instead of at the Anaheim Convention Center. The online event offered activities, cosplay contests, exclusive merchandise, video panels, and a virtual exhibit floor online for fans.
WonderCon is slated to return to the Anaheim Convention Center from March 26-28, 2021.
Comic-Con is currently under contract with the convention center to keep the event in San Diego through 2024.