San Francisco's travel industry is recovering slowly

San Francisco said the city drew 21.9 million visitors in 2022, a 29% increase over the prior year but still 16% down from 2019, when a record 26.2 million visitors arrived.

Rebounds in international leisure travel from Europe and the city’s convention business fueled the 29% increase, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, the city’s destination marketing organization.

However, further growth in conventions and the return of Asia travelers is needed to approach pre-pandemic visitor levels. 

San Francisco Travel CEO Joe D’Alessandro said, “San Francisco is not yet reaching pre-pandemic numbers as anticipated, but we expect to see further growth this year,
especially as we begin to welcome back more travelers from Asia.”

Slow recovery for convention travel

San Francisco Travel said the George R. Moscone Convention Center had 33 events in 2022. There are 35 events confirmed in 2023, and higher attendance is expected in line with national industry trends. There are 21 Moscone Center events booked for 2024.  

San Francisco Travel is introducing initiatives to drive the city’s meetings and convention business, including a hotel room block program for Moscone events that aims to “ensure San Francisco remains competitive.” It will look to target smaller corporate events as well as aggressively pursue large events that are held annually or rotationally.

San Francisco Travel also has grown its sales department for conventions and events from 12 people in 2021 to 23 this year.

“New team deployment will enable the association to aggressively target business in new markets and attract and retain annual and rotational events,” San Francisco Travel said. 

“Securing events for Moscone Center in future years is where key opportunities lie and is vitally important to the city’s economic recovery,” said Nicole Rogers, San Francisco Travel’s executive vice president and chief sales officer.

San Francisco expects that visitor volume won’t exceed 2019 until 2025. It said that seven hotels in San Francisco closed permanently during the pandemic and a further 10 remain temporarily closed.

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