Reelin' in the tourists

The tepid tourism economy in San Francisco will receive a shot in the arm during the Indian summer, as large events and conventions bring visitors — and their money — to The City.

Keeping an influx of guests is important, since tourism dollars are one of the largest fillers of city coffers.

San Francisco had about 131,000 visitors a day last year, spending more than $22 million per day and helping to generate more than
$527 million in tax revenue, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Those were record numbers, but don’t expect them again this year because of the economy, said Dan Goldes, the bureau’s executive vice president.

Folks are traveling less and spending less during those trips, which not only means fewer tax dollars for San Francisco, but also less money spent at hotels, restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, Goldes said.

The City’s hotels this summer have had to lower room rates — which also equates to less tax revenue — in order to encourage more bookings, he said. Convention business is also down about 10 percent, according to Goldes.

But the warm fall months that make up the Bay Area’s Indian summer may act as somewhat of a saving grace, Goldes and business owners said. Many major U.S. cities tend see a drop in tourism during fall, but The City continues attracting millions of sun-loving vacationers. Thus, city planners make certain to pack in a bevy of major events to lure visitors here rather than to year-round warm spots like San Diego or Phoenix.

A quick look at October’s schedule in The City says it all: Fleet Week, which can draw more than 1 million people to the waterfront; the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which attracts upward of 700,000 spectators; and other crowd-pleasers including the two-day Treasure Island Music Festival and North Beach Columbus Day parade and celebration.

Some of San Francisco’s largest conventions also take place in October, including an Oracle event that brings in around 45,000 people, the visitors bureau said.

Also on the list this year is the President’s Cup, which will bring the world’s best golfers to Harding Park for a globally televised event. The tournament will not only attract visitors, but will also promote San Francisco as a tourist destination to folks watching the action from their homes, said Rob Black, vice president for public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

“Bringing those bodies into city hotels is the first step,” Goldes said. Once they’re in hotels, they’re going to pay for everything they do here. They’re going to spend money on dining, transportation, retail, sightseeing, entertainment. It’s sort of a captive audience.”

The influx of visitors has Mayor Gavin Newsom seeing dollar signs for ailing city coffers.

“We expect to have a busy, profitable [October],” he said.

Cabbies, others looking forward to influx of visitors

When people visit San Francisco, they generate tax revenue by staying at hotels.

But they also buy things, and take cabs. Those prospects have local businesses looking forward to the coming month’s busy schedule of events and conventions.

Jim Gillespie, a senior manager for Yellow Cab, The City’s largest fleet, said taxi drivers typically look forward to October’s myriad events for additional business. They are even more adamant about tapping the extra visitor dollars this year due to the recession, he said.

“There are certain events drivers will talk about, and Fleet Week is one of them,” Gillespie said, adding that Halloween events also tend to be a boon. “It’s certainly welcomed activity.”

And it’s not just cabbies, shopkeepers or restaurateurs who profit from visitors’ spending, but also residents who need jobs and those who make their living off gratuity.

“And if you’re a waiter, you might get an extra shift or two or three,” said Rob Black of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “That’s money you may need to pay the rent … to take your boyfriend or girlfriend out to dinner. It’s a big difference when you bring outside money [into The City].”

Eating from the trough: Big events keep San Francisco hotels full

Organization Meeting dates Building(s) room nights Attendance
International Continence Society  Annual meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 3 Moscone West 10,940 3,000
Association of Financial Professionals Annual conference Oct. 4-7 Moscone North, South 16,790 6,000
Oracle Corp. Oracle OpenWorld 2009 Oct. 11-15 Moscone North,South, West    78,707 45,000
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Nike 26.2 Marathon/Team in Training 2009 Oct. 16-18 Moscone West 10,920 15,500
American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual meeting Oct. 24-27 Moscone North,South, West  60,320 24,000

Source: San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau

Mark your calendars: October chock-full of events in San Francisco

The Walt Disney Family Museum, opening Oct. 1
Three historic buildings within the Presidio will soon house 10 galleries devoted to the inspiring story of Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disneyland and the global yet distinctly American company that bears his name. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12.50 for children ages 6 to 17 and free for children under 6 who are accompanied by an adult.

The Presidents Cup, Oct. 6-11
Ten players each for the international and U.S. teams will compete in The Presidents Cup at Harding Park Golf Course. The U.S. team, with Fred Couples as captain, includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Sean O’Hair, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim and Justin Leonard. The international team, led by Greg Norman, includes Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby of Australia, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Tim Clark of South Africa, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Mike Weir of Canada, and Y.E. Yang of Korea. This is the first time The Presidents Cup has been held on the West Coast.

‘Rent,’ Oct. 6-18
The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical returns to San Francisco for a limited engagement at the Curran Theatre. Adam Pascall, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart will reprise the roles they originated on Broadway in “Rent: The Broadway Tour.”

San Francisco Jazz Festival, starting Oct. 10
The 27th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival begins with a celebration of Thelonious Monk’s birthday with pianist Eric Reed. The season continues through Nov. 21 and includes some of the most illustrious names in music: Jake Shimabukuro, Ornette Coleman, Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer, Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar, Savion Glover, Esperanza Spalding, Milton Nascimento, Gal Costa, Keb Mo and Solomon Burke, Benny Goodman Centennial Salute with Eddie Daniels, and many others.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Oct. 2-4
The free music event has grown into one of the world’s largest and most anticipated festivals for concertgoers and musicians alike. This year, the festival expands to six stages and more than 80 bands will perform at Speedway, Marx and Lindley meadows in Golden Gate Park. It’s estimated that more than 750,000 people attended in 2008. In addition to Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Hazel Dickens, who have been performing at Hardly Strictly since it began in 2001, this year’s festival will feature Richie Havens, The Chieftains, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Old 97s, Marianne Faithfull, Amadou & Mariam and many others.

Treasure Island Music Festival, Oct. 17-18
The third annual Treasure Island Music Festival, hailed as the West Coast’s most anticipated boutique music festival, returns to the Bay. Set against panoramic views of the City by the Bay, the weekend event will stay true to form in offering an electronic- and dance-centric lineup Oct. 17 and an indie-rock lineup Oct. 18.

Fleet Week, Oct. 8-13
The Blue Angels return to The City as part of the annual Fleet Week San Francisco festivities. Inaugurated in 1981, Fleet Week brings together Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard forces for a weeklong celebration highlighted by a two-day weekend air show Oct. 10-11.The weekend lineup will also include the U.S. F-16 Viper West and the United States Air Force’s newest fighter craft, the F-22A Raptor. Team Oracle will also be performing. Fleet Week 2009 also features a variety of family events along the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.

Treasure Island WineFest, Oct. 11
Vintners in Lodi, located 96 miles east of San Francisco, will provide visitors access to their products at the inaugural Treasure Island WineFest, taking place the last day of Fleet Week. In addition to sampling wines from 45 Lodi wineries, there will be live music and guided tasting seminars. There will be an air show flying simultaneously, promising incredible views for attendees.

New Cinema by the Bay Festival, Oct. 23-25
The San Francisco Film Society is producing a new festival. Celebrating Bay Area filmmaking, the three-day festival will feature new works produced in or about the Bay Area and provide a compelling window into Bay Area film culture and practice at its best.

Columbus Day Italian heritage events, Oct. 3-4, 10-11
The Madonna del Lume Celebration will be held from Oct. 3-4, with the Italian Heritage Grand Ball & Banquet taking place Oct. 10 and the Italian Heritage Columbus Day Parade taking place Oct. 11. The 2009 civic grand marshal of the parade is Maestro Nicola Luisotti of the San Francisco Opera.


San Francisco set records in tourism during 2008.

16.4 million
Total visitors

$8.52 billion
Total amount spent by visitors

$22.3 million
Amount spent per day

$527 million
Amount generated in taxes and fees to benefit The City’s budget

Total jobs created in The City’s hospitality and tourism industries

$2.01 billion
Amount funded in payrolls for The City’s hospitality and tourism industries

4.7 million
Overnight stays in commercial accommodations

26 percent
Visitors who live within a day’s drive of The City

Source: San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau

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