San Francisco seeks to wow travel agents 

San Francisco will be selling its biggest industry — tourism — to an international audience of tour operators and travel agents at a trade show this week that local officials hope will generate a flood of cash from overseas for The City’s struggling economy.

The International Pow Wow conference will host 1,100 travel tour operators from 70 countries, from China and other Asian countries to Canada, Europe and the Middle East, at the Moscone Center through Wednesday, according to Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, a local business group that promotes tourism.

The event, considered the premier trade show for international travel, is in San Francisco for the first time since 1992.

“The return of this conference is not only significant for this week, but for the next three to five years, they’re going to be selling San Francisco for us,” D’Alessandro said.

In addition to the conference itself — which will include representatives from U.S. convention and visitors bureaus, marketing groups, hotels, tours, airlines and cruise lines — show hosts over the weekend ferried attendees through The City’s popular destination neighborhoods, including Chinatown, North Beach, the Mission, the Castro and Haight-Ashbury, among others.

Officials hope their brief stay will have a lasting impact in the next few years.

“I think it’s huge for our economy, and we’re talking in the hundreds of millions of dollars … not only people staying at the hotels but visiting all of the different hospitality venues, the restaurants, the events, and then enjoying of course the great weather that we have as well,” Mayor Ed Lee said.

And San Francisco, like other U.S. cities, could use the cash, having suffered major budget deficits the past few years. The coming fiscal year deficit is estimated at $306 million,

followed by $480 million in fiscal year 2012-13, and $642 million in fiscal year 2013-14, according to the city controller’s office.

Travel and tourism employs more people than any other San Francisco industry, and generates about $8 billion in spending and $500,000 in tax revenues each year, according to D’Alessandro.

The international market is particularly important in San Francisco’s economic recovery, “because they stay longer and they spend more,” D’Alessandro said.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

Tourism’s economic impact

2009  
2010
Number of visitors to SF annually 15.45 million
15.92 million
Number of visitors in SF on an average day 125,407 126,931
Visitor spending on an average day $21.51 million
$22.84 million
Annual visitor spending per San Franciscan $9,283 $9,737
Taxes generated by tourism $466 million
$485 million
Jobs supported by tourism in San Francisco 66,837 67,122
Total payroll for tourism-related jobs $1.86 billion
$1.88 billion

 Source: San Francisco Travel Association

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Ari Burack

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