It takes a village to brand 

Tourists in Ireland encounter huge billboards urging the populace to smile — at the tourists. San Francisco isn’t there yet, but The City’s tourism czar is hoping that an "all-on-board" mentality will prevail as his organization rolls out an ambitious 2007-08 business plan.

"One of the most important things we want to stress with this plan is that we have to collectively market the San Francisco brand together," said San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Joe d’Alessandro said before unveiling the plan Tuesday. "Most San Franciscans may not realize that tourism is our No. 1 industry."

The plan, the result of some six to eight months of research, lays out a series of marketing goals in support of The City’s $7.76 billion tourist industry. The SFCVB plans keep the three-year-old "Only in San Francisco" slogan, promote less-visited neighborhoods such as the Mission, tout its eco-friendly features such as the solar array at Moscone Center, market to gay and lesbian visitors and promote The City’s fine arts and food culture, according to the report.

At the same time, d’Alessandro and his organization will lobby for renovations and expansion of the 26-year-old Moscone Center, which is increasingly being outclassed by newer venues in other cities.

"The other big thing is the condition of our streets — the aggressive panhandling and, frankly, the dirty streets," d’Alessandro said.

The City’s crime and drugs are impacting the views of would-be business travelers, Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc. CEO Sherry Parks said. Between that and certain hotelier attitudes, the traffic and other issues, she said she’s been routing business travelers seeking a city to San Diego instead.

"We call first-tier cities ‘control programs,’ where you have to control every moment of an attendee’s time," Parks said. "More and more, I think of it as a ‘control’ city, as I would New York or Chicago."

Locally-based travel planners had a different take. Both Loretta Lowe of San Francisco and Scott Pinheiro of Santa Cruz Travel said The City is doing well by their clients, though Lowe said taxis and streets could stand improvement.

The SFCVB also plans for its staff to increase convention room night bookings by more than 2 percent, to 2,090,000 booked room nights. It also wants to open a Chicago sales office, create an incentive program that discounts Moscone rentals to conferences that book more than 40,000 room-nights and begin work on hosting a major international travel industry trade show in 2011.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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