Despite reams of articles declaring the death of San Francisco amid sky-high rents, economic inequality, homelessness and open-air drug use, the city's tourism numbers were actually up in 2019.
Frequent doomsayer about the general state of the city Joe D'Alessandro, the president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, now says the numbers are in and, in fact, lots of tourists and conventioneers kept coming to San Francisco last year, even more than in 2018. 26.2 million people came to the city in 2019, up from 25.8 million in 2018, according to SF Travel's count. And this means that SF has broken its own tourism record for the tenth consecutive year.
Those tourists spent $10.2 billion here, to boot.
But things aren't all rosy looking ahead, as D'Alessandro cautions.
"Overall, 2019 was another great year," he says, quickly adding, "Internationally, the evolving coronavirus situation and other market conditions make 2020 a difficult year to project." Notably, the relocation of Oracle's OpenWorld conference to Las Vegas, announced in December, is likely to impact the 2020 numbers.
In his report, D'Alessandro said that hotel occupancy was up 0.8%, and hotel room nights connected to the Moscone Center hit 1 million. "This is only the second year this has ever happened, 2014 being the first," he says. And according to SF Travel's Visitor Study, the average visitor to SF spent $365 per day last year, while the average convention attendee spent $584 per day.
In announcing its decision to move OpenWorld, Oracle cited SF's "poor street conditions" and the high cost of hotel rooms, which were both complaints of conventioneers.
Back in 2018, D'Alessandro was foretelling future doom for the city after a "major medical association" decided to move its annual conference out of SF, effective in 2023. So perhaps we just aren't seeing the effects of the "street conditions" problem yet — although lots of tourists keep finding reasons to come here outside of professional conventions.
The long and the short of it is, maybe everyone will stop traveling for months because of the coronavirus, but probably not, and hopefully San Francisco doesn't become a nexus of the disease, and we'll break the tourism record number again in 2020.
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