Hotel worker strikes threaten tourism dollars in San Francisco 

San Francisco’s tourism leaders hailed a 2010 increase in visitors and spending revealed in a survey released Tuesday, but concerns remain over hotel worker strikes hampering The City’s top moneymaking industry.

Leonard Hoops, the executive director of the San Francisco Travel Association, said the “labor cloud” that hangs over The City continues to threaten the tourism sector, which remains fragile.

Hoops said the industry needs to do more to attract business travelers — traditionally bigger spenders — and book “self-contained” hotel conferences. But those engagements are typically planned months or years in advance, Hoops said, leading some organizers to worry about whether a hotel will still be operating.

“I’m hearing, ‘We don’t want to plan meetings if we are going to run into a dispute,’” Hoops said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m just not comfortable now bringing my business.’”

The comments were echoed Tuesday by speakers at the Northern California Visitor Industry Outlook and Marketing Conference, where it was announced that 15.9 million people visited The City in 2010, a 3.1 percent increase from 2009, and spent $8.34 billion, a 6.2 percent gain. But those increases weren’t enough to bring the numbers back to the 2008 level from the fallout of 2009, when there was a 5.8 percent drop in visitors and a 7.8 percent dip in spending.

The travel association’s study found average hotel guests spent $240 per person per day, and those attending meetings spent $265. Visitors staying with friends and relatives spent an average of $114 per day, and day-trippers spent $109.

Conference speakers cited the Giants’ World Series win, San Francisco International Airport’s new terminal and the planned America’s Cup regatta as high points certain to attract more visitors. Threats were identified as rising oil prices, worldwide economic instability and America’s ongoing overseas wars.

But some speakers said the “new normal” of Americans making do with less, plus the weak dollar, could actually help San Francisco tourism.

“It means America is on sale,” said panel discussion member Rodrigo Enriquez, the president of Extranomical Adventures Inc. “And it’s a double benefit because people will be coming [from overseas], and Americans will be staying home instead of going abroad.”

The study found that Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown were the top destinations in The City, while the top attractions were Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park.

The survey said people most like The City’s general ambience, followed by scenic beauty and museums and culture. Least-liked things include panhandlers, cold weather, traffic and costs.

The top origins of visitors in 2010 were Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany.

Industry leader

A survey of 2010 tourism showed growth from 2009.

  • 15.92 million Visitors
  • $8.34 billion Spending
  • $485 million Tax revenue
  • 67,122 Jobs supported
  • $1.88 billion Industry payroll
  • 126,931 Visitors per day
  • $22.84 million Tourism spending per day
  • 6.2% Increase in visitors from 2009
  • 3.1% Increase in spending from 2009

Source: San Francisco Travel Association

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