Tourism strong despite flagging economy

Last year, tourists poured more than $8 billion into San Francisco businesses as they strolled the streets, shopped and dined — an all-time spending high, according to an annual report from the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tourism is The City’s No. 1 industry, employing 72,360 people who a make a combined salary of $1.95 billion, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In 2007, 16.1 million visitors came to the City by the Bay, an increase of 2.4 percent over 2006.

The increase can be attributed to an increase of international visitors flocking to the United States to take advantage of the weak dollar, said Angela Jackson, spokeswoman for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“International visitors are staying longer and spending more as a result,” Jackson said, noting the strength in hotel occupancy rates. Seventy-nine percent of San Francisco hotel rooms were booked in 2007, up from 76.4 percent in 2006, according to PKF Consulting. The average daily rate for a hotel room was $181.22, another increase from 2006.

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said international visitors were buoying local restaurants as local and regional diners dwindle in numbers.

The previous year, 15.8 million tourists roamed sidewalks and took in the sights; that was a slight increase from 2005, according to Convention and Visitors Bureau data. Those 15.8 million visitors pumped $7.76 billion into the local economy, according to the data.

The industry also was helped out in 2007 by a strong convention year at Moscone Center and Major League Baseball’s All-Star weekend at AT&T Park in July when hundreds of thousands came to The City to watch the game’s best battle in the Midsummer Classic. The summer eventgenerated an estimated $65 million in revenue for San Francisco, according to tourism officials.

dsmith@sfexaminer.com

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