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San Francisco Travel Reports Record Breaking Tourism Levels for 2018, Gives Projections for 2019

San Francisco Travel is reporting a total of 25.8 million visitors to the city in 2018, up 1.2 percent over 25.5 million in 2017.

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Total Visitor Volume Hits 25.8 Million, up 1.2 Percent. Visitor Spending Exceeds $10 Billion, up 2.4 Percent.

March 14, 2019 – The San Francisco Travel Association has released tourism figures for 2018 and issued projections for 2019.  The new data was announced today at San Francisco Travel’s Marketing Conference at the Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco.

San Francisco Travel is reporting a total of 25.8 million visitors to the city in 2018 (with minor adjustments expected as final data is received), up 1.2 percent over 25.5 million in 2017.  

Total spending by visitors was $10 billion, up 2.3 percent over $9.8 billion in 2017 (including spending on meetings and conventions).  

“This is the ninth consecutive year that we are able to report record-breaking outcomes for San Francisco’s tourism industry.  The 25.8 million visitors and $10 billion in spending created 82,538 jobs and supported services for people throughout the city and the entire Bay Area,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. 

“San Francisco is an incredible city that continues to draw people from all over to visit and enjoy the City we all know and love. These visitors explore our neighborhoods, shop at our small businesses, enjoy our restaurants, and help support our local economy,” said Mayor London Breed. “I am committed to working every day to make our City a better place for everyone, whether they live here or are visiting from the other side of the world.”

“While visitor growth last year was modest, we saw a larger increase in visitor spending. We are optimistic for the rest of 2019 and currently have more room nights on the books than ever before, thanks to the recently expanded Moscone Center,” D’Alessandro said.  “In the year ahead, we are looking forward to continued growth in convention bookings, and we are preparing for a complete brand re-fresh, to be rolled out at our Annual Luncheon on June 27, that will help us stand out around the world.”

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) also had a record breaking year in 2018.  SFO served a total of 57.8 million passengers.  Passenger enplanements increased by 3.1 percent overall, with a 2.2 percent growth in the domestic sector and a 6 percent increase in the international sector.

Hotel Occupancy

Average hotel occupancy was 82.2 percent for 2018, down 1.4 percent, while average daily rates were $264.53, up by 6.2 percent.  The loss in occupancy is attributed to the closure of the Moscone Center during construction of the $551 expansion that was completed in January 2019.

Average hotel occupancy is projected to rise 1.2 percent for 2019 to 83.2 percent while average daily rates are expected to average $276.66 for 2019, and increase of 4.6 percent.

International Visitor Volume 

“Our focus on having a global footprint with representation in 13 international markets, integrated sales efforts and digital marketing programs in key places like China makes San Francisco and the region stronger and able to weather influences beyond our control,” D’Alessandro said.  “Working closely with our regional partners is a big part of this effort.”

International visitors again comprised 28 percent of overnight visitors and 61 percent of all overnight visitor spending in 2018.   San Francisco welcomed 2.9 million international visitors in 2018, very similar to the number in 2017.  

The top five markets for visitor volume in 2018 were Mexico, China, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.  The fastest growing international markets were Brazil, France, India and Taiwan.   

For 2019, international visitor volume is expected to grow by 3 percent with growth expected from China, South Korea, Brazil, India and Canada.

International Visitor Spending

International visitors spent $4.9 billion in 2018, up 2 percent from $4.8 billion in 2017.  

International markets with the most growth in spending were China (up 4.8 percent), India (8.0 percent), France (9.7 percent), Brazil (8.5 percent) and Australia (4.8 percent)

According to D’Alessandro, international tourism levels were affected by a variety of factors:

•           A stronger U.S. dollar, increasing the cost of visiting the United States

•           Negative perceptions of the U.S. caused by uncertain travel-related policies and messaging of the administration

•           International trade wars

•           Completion of the Moscone Center expansion 

•           Tightening credit

For 2019, San Francisco Travel is forecasting a total of 26.5 million visitors to the city, an increase of 2.5 percent.  Total spending by visitors in 2019 is projected to reach $10.3 billion, up 3.4 percent, including spending related to meetings and conventions.

Far Reaching Economic Impact

According to the Visitor Study, visitor spending equated to $25.5 million daily or $1.06 million per hour.  The average visitor spent $360.17 per day. Convention attendees spent an average of $567.25 per day.

The number of jobs supported by tourism in San Francisco rose 1 percent to 82,538 jobs in 2018.

There was an average of 70,829 visitors in San Francisco each day.

The tourism industry generated $771 million in taxes and fees for the City of San Francisco in 2018, an increase of 8.0 percent over the previous year.  Major contributors to that figure include hotel tax (51 percent) and property tax (22 percent).

On a per capita basis, visitors spent $10,534 per San Francisco resident.  Visitors generated $2,089 in taxes per San Francisco household.

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call 415-391-2000.  

San Francisco Travel’s main Visitor Information Center is now located at 749 Howard St., adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center.   San Francisco Travel also operates Visitor Information Centers at Macy’s Union Square and in Chinatown at 625 Kearny St.  San Francisco Travel is also a partner at the California Welcome Center at PIER 39.  

For more about San Francisco, follow www.facebook.com/onlyinSF, www.instagram.com/onlyinsf and https://twitter.com/onlyinsf.

American Express® is the official Card partner of the San Francisco Travel Association.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 50 international cities on 44 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 85 cities in the U.S. on 12 domestic airlines. SFO offers upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com. Follow SFO on www.twitter.com/flysfo and www.facebook.com/flysfo.

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