Green good for tourism 

San Francisco is using environmental values as a key marketing theme for its $8 billion a year tourism industry.

Groundbreaking environmental laws in The City, such as bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam takeout packaging, have drawn national attention and boosted San Francisco’s image as a destination that can reduce the environmental effects of vacations and conventions, said Dan Goldes of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a focus right now, primarily in our cross-promotional efforts and in the public relations efforts,” Goldes said. “It doesn’t have an ad budget tied to it at the moment but it could in the future.”

Environmentalism emerged last year during the bureau’s strategic planning efforts as one of several “themes” that draw visitors to San Francisco, said Goldes, vice president of strategy and development at the visitors bureau.

The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau recently added green-focused pages to its Web site, www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.

One of The City’s best green-marketing opportunities lies in the lucrative convention market, said Pat Gallagher, bureau chairman and president of Giants Enterprises, which rents out the AT&T Park to parties linked to conventions.

Giants Enterprises includes information about on-site solar-panel-generated power and sustainable, locally grown food in its sales pitches, Gallagher said.

“It’s just good business,” he said. “People are getting more attuned to this.”

Easy pedestrian and transit travel around The City and Northern California’s bountiful natural beauty also help environmentally focused marketing efforts, Goldes said.

Other aspects of The City have also recently paid off for the tourism industry.

Gay and lesbian travel became a “central pillar” of advertising efforts in 2007 following more than a decade of similar cross-promotional and public relations efforts, Goldes said.

“The bureau helped start the gay and lesbian travel segment many years ago,” Goldes said. “We were in the market very early.”

The city-owned Moscone Center markets its composting, recycling and renewable-energy initiatives to help woo conventions, spokeswoman Naina Ayya said.

“Much of what we do is because it’s the law in San Francisco,” she said. “The City is very progressive and very green.”

The travel industry in The City, however, has not escaped the slowing economy.

Visitors are increasingly opting for less expensive visits to the Peninsula, according to a city controller’s report released Monday.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

San Francisco’s tourism industry
  • 16.1 million: Visitors to San Francisco last year
  • $8.2 billion: Visitor spending in San Francisco last year
  • 8 percent: Increase in hotel room bookings from 2006 to 2007
  • 3.9 percent: Decrease in hotel room bookings from May 2007 to May 2008
  • $181: Average price to stay one night in a San Francisco hotel last year
  • 72,360: Tourism-related jobs last year
  • 2 million: Pounds of waste diverted from landfill by the Moscone Center annually
  • 20 percent: Portion of that waste donated to local nonprofits
Sources: San Francisco Office of the Controller, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, Moscone Center

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