San Francisco Mayor London Breed and officials from San Francisco International Airport and the San Francisco Travel Association are headed out on a 10-day tour of the Continent in an effort to combat negative press about SF becoming a hellhole.
"Europe is a real opportunity for us,” said mayoral spokesperson Jeff Cretan about the trip. “We need to get out there."
The PR tour, or whatever you want to call it, is being paid for by SFO, as the Chronicle reports — which, yes, is funded by the city but has a budget that is separate from other city departments. SF Travel, which also recently arranged a domestic PR tour for the mayor, will also be tagging along.
On the agenda are meetings with other mayors, like Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, as well as various public officials and executives at Heathrow, Gatwick, and Brussels International airports. The stops on the tour are London, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Paris, and as Cretan tells the Chronicle, the focus will be on meeting with European airlines to potentially attract more direct flights to San Francisco. Air France, British Airways, Air Belgium, Lufthansa, and Virgin Atlantic are all on the schedule.
Also, Breed will be doing media interviews in London, Frankfurt, and Paris. And she's likely to get questioned about videos that have gone viral globally of crimes occurring in broad daylight in SF — though presumably Europeans aren't quite so obsessed with our Walgreens petty theft problem as Fox News is.
The city and SFO are apparently concerned about the slow recovery of flights from Asia, where continued restrictions on travel to the U.S. due to the pandemic are keeping many tourists and businesspeople away. In pre-pandemic times, Asia flights made up a bulk of SFO's international business.
One main revenue weakness noted in a recent budget analyst's report for the city was tourism.
"The city’s tourism and hospitality sector is projected to rebound in FY 2021-22 and FY 2022-23, but at a slower pace than budgeted given more recent travel and hospitality trends," the report said.
According to SFO data, the number of "deplanements" from international flights coming from Europe was up 550% in December 2021 compared to a year earlier, but still up only 15% overall for the year. Of course, both the Delta and Omicron waves of the pandemic greatly impacted the expected travel recovery of 2021, but officials seem intent on speeding things up with European carriers.
Comparatively, the number of passengers deplaning from Asia in 2021 was down 22% compared to 2020, even though flights out of Asia largely stopped for several months in 2020.
Photo: Anthony Delanoix