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San Francisco Tourism Beginning Long Road to Recovery

San Francisco Travel reports 2021 tourism figures.

San Francisco Travel Association, the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco, released 2021 tourism figures at its annual Marketing Conference held today at SFMOMA.

In 2021, San Francisco Travel reported 14.8 million visitors to the city, up 25% from 2020, but down 44% from a record high of 26.2 million visitors in 2019.

Total spending by visitors increased to $3.1 billion from $2.8 billion in 2020, but was down 70% from $10.3 billion in 2019, including spending on meetings and conventions.

“While we saw some improvement in 2021 with domestic leisure travelers returning, overall arrivals were negatively impacted by global travel restrictions and the delta variant,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. “Our recovery is slower because we have a disproportionately large reliance on meetings, business travel, and international travelers. Pre-Covid, international visitors accounted for over 60% of all overnight visitor spending even though they represented just 28% of our visitors.”

International Visitor Volume and Spending

In 2021, San Francisco welcomed 481,000 international visitors, down 4% from 2020 and down 84% from 2.9 million in 2019.

International visitors comprised 11% of overnight visitor volume but 44% of all overnight visitor spending in 2021. They spent $1 billion, up 2% from $985 million in 2020 but down 80% from $5.1 billion in 2019.

The top five international markets for visitor volume in 2021 were Mexico, India, Canada, Netherlands, and Taiwan. The top five markets for international visitor spending in 2021 were Mexico, India, Canada, Taiwan, and Netherlands.

Hotel Occupancy

Average hotel occupancy using pre-COVID room night supply was 35.5%, up 33% from 2020, but still down 57% from 2019. The average daily rate was $162.37, down 22% compared to 2020 and down 41% compared to 2019.

Room nights consumed by delegates attending Moscone Center conventions totaled 18,000 compared to 970,000 nights in 2019. Last year, Moscone Center hosted five meetings following the convention and exhibition center’s reopening in September 2021. This year, 33 conventions are confirmed for Moscone Center.

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport served 24 million passengers, up 48% from 2020’s 16.4 million passengers but down 58% from 2019’s 57.8 million.

Tourism’s Far-Reaching Economic Impact

Daily visitor spending equated to $8.2 million, up from $7.3 million in 2020 but down 69% from $26.2 million in 2019. The average visitor spent $201.65 per day compared to $364.94 in 2019. Convention attendees spent an average of $202.31 per day, down 65% from $584.32 in 2019.

San Francisco saw an average of 40,519 visitors each day. This was an increase of 26% compared to 2020’s 32,281 daily visitors but down 44% from 71,805 in 2019.

The number of jobs supported by tourism in San Francisco increased to 27,318 from 20,880 in 2020, still well below the 86,111 jobs supported by tourism in 2019.

The tourism industry generated $257.4 million in taxes and fees for the City of San Francisco in 2021, down 6% from $273.4 million in 2020 and down 69% from $819.7 million in 2019. Major contributors to that figure include lodging tax (35%) and property tax (38%).

Visitors spent $3,408 per San Francisco resident on a per capita basis, compared to $2,969 in 2020 and $10,785 in 2019. In 2021, visitors generated $684 in taxes per San Francisco household, down from $732 the previous year and down from $2,227 in 2019.

Tourism Outlook

San Francisco Travel expects that the situation will gradually improve moving forward. Overall visitation to the city is forecast to reach 21.9 million in 2022.

Overall visitor spending is expected to grow from $3.1 billion in 2021 to $6.1 billion in 2022. Total visitation is anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. Spending also is expected to return to 2019 levels in 2024.

“As we move forward with our recovery efforts, we’re cautiously optimistic we will see improvement in 2022 given omicron is waning, most countries are lifting travel restrictions, and we have more conventions on the books this year,” said D’Alessandro.

About San Francisco Travel

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. Tourism is San Francisco's largest industry. More than 25.8 million people visited the destination in 2019, spending in excess of $10 billion. More than 86,000 jobs are supported by tourism in San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the metropolitan areas in the U.S. that has consistently kept Covid-19 largely under control. The COVID-19 Prevention & Enhanced Cleaning Guidelines put forth by the Hotel Council of San Francisco ensure that the city’s hospitality businesses are adhering to the most elaborate cleaning and safety protocols. San Francisco Travel invites all visitors who are planning to come in 2021 to contribute their part to a safe and enjoyable experience by taking its Safe Travel Pledge.

For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com. Follow SF Travel on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Please use hashtags #sftravel and #AlwaysSF.

About San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) wants you to Travel Well. SFO works with local, state, and federal health officials to protect against COVID-19. Measures include enhanced cleaning protocols, hundreds of hand sanitizer stations, physical barriers, face coverings for everyone and physical distancing. To learn more visit flysfo.com/travel-well.

SFO offers nonstop service to Asia, South Pacific, Europe, Canada, Mexico and across the United States. 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 us on www.twitter.com/flysfo and www.facebook.com/flysfo.

United Airlines is the preferred airline of the San Francisco Travel Association.