Tourism biz seeing changes

The terrorist attacks of 2001 are now nearly six years past, and the rising tide of a recovering tourism industry is helping the small businesses operating within it.

But that’s about all these companies have in common. With each focusing on a different niche, each faces a different landscape.

Tourism is The City’s largest industry, and approximately 80 percent of the San Francisco Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s 1,800 member organizations fall into the “small business” category of 500 or fewer employees, bureau Executive VP Dan Goldes said. The firms include small hotels, restaurants, tour guides and a host of other services.

“The tapestry of the visitor industry is a lot richer than a lot of people think about,” Goldes said. “With hotels, you know that a large percentage of their clientele is from out of town. It may be a lesser percentage at a retail store or a restaurant, but it could be the difference between turning a loss and … a profit.”

Among the small businesses that are thriving is the 10-year-old Parker Guest House, a Church Street bed and breakfast specializing in gay and lesbian travelers. It has been doing brisk business and is generally sold out two weeks to a month in advance for weekend travel, co-owner Bill Boeddiker said.

At the same time, other bed and breakfasts have disappeared from the landscape, sold as high-priced homes due to rising real estate costs, according to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International and the California Association of Bed and Breakfast Inns, which is keeping an eye on the trend.

“As a seller, it’s folly for us to reduce the value of our property to make it affordable to a buyer as a B and B,” said Dottie Musser, who is selling the Bradford Place Inn & Gardens in Sonora. She’s offering to sell the business, but she said it might very well be bought as a house.

Meanwhile, other travel fields such as tour guide work and convention photography are growing more competitive, Wok Wiz Chinatown Tours proprietor Shirley Fong-Torres and photographer Dave Bush said.

Photographing multimillion-dollar conventions has emerged as a high-profit form of photography, Bush said. As a result, it is becoming crowded with photographers from other fields whose work has been hit hard by the digital revolution, he said.

Fong-Torres said that despite an increase in tour operators, her business hosting walking and food tours of Chinatown remains strong. But she makes very sure to maintain marketing and business connections, working with tour operators and making media appearances, she said.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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