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San Francisco Tourism and Group Business Are Rebounding While International Travel Lags

By M+E Staff

San Francisco is seeing marked increases in visitor volume, visitor spending, group business, and hotel occupancy this year compared to 2021. However, visitor volume will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, and global visitation will not reach 2019 levels until 2025. Those projections were shared by the San Francisco Travel Association at its Annual Visitor and Lodging Forecast Forum held on Aug. 24 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

According to the association’s latest projections, San Francisco will receive 21.5 million visitors in 2022 compared to 2021’s 17 million visitors, an increase of 26.5%. Visitor spending is forecast to be up 89.3% in 2022 to $6.7 billion, but down 30.2% compared to 2019, when the city had a record 26.2 million visitors and $9.6 billion in visitor spending. 

Domestic tourism is leading the recovery, with international tourism and, to a lesser extent, group/business travel trailing.  Compared with 2019, international visitor volume is down 50%, with only half of 2019’s 3 million overnight international visitors projected in 2022.

Group and business travel is more robust. San Francisco Travel notes that “growth in conventions business was significant given Moscone Center reopened only in September 2021.”  Last year, five events were held at Moscone Center, with 16,500 attendees accounting for 17,100 room nights. In 2022, conventions at Moscone Center are projected to account for nearly 350,000 room nights; 34 events have been confirmed with an expected 308,700 attendees. Encouraging as this news is, room nights tracked to citywide conventions remain well below pre-pandemic levels when 970,000 convention room nights actualized. That gap does show signs of closing: Convention room nights on the books for 2023 are up 84% over this year, with 637,753 definite room nights and 25,678 tentative room nights.

 “We are clearly on the road to recovery, but we still have a way to go before we will reach pre-pandemic tourism levels. San Francisco will not see a full recovery until travelers from Asia return and business travel and group business increases,” said Joe D’Alessandro, San Francisco Travel’s president and CEO.