New projects keep tourism fresh in San Francisco 

We’ve been encouraged over here at the San Francisco Travel Association by the recent results of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 CityBeat poll.

Conducted among 500 San Francisco voters in February by David Binder Research, the poll indicated that 98 percent of voters believe tourism is important to The City’s economy, and 78 percent say they support investing city funds in tourism infrastructure such as an arena, expanding the Moscone Center, waterfront improvements for the America’s Cup and promoting The City as a tourism destination.


While we’ve been pretty candid about our sentiments for the past 100 years, it’s extremely heartening to learn that a representative sample of voters in San Francisco recognize that “tourism makes San Francisco” and agree that there needs to be a healthy balance between resident dollars and visitor dollars to maintain all the incredible things those of us who live here enjoy. Voters reaffirmed this sentiment in November when they rejected a ballot measure that would have increased our hotel tax and had serious repercussions on our struggling economy.

Voters also agreed, according to the recent poll, that they are optimistic about the future. Even better news.

That leads me to several major projects that are extremely important to the tourism infrastructure, and in particular how they relate to the creation of jobs for our local economy.

The newly renovated Terminal 2 opening at San Francisco International Airport in April is a significant stimulus for The City and the Bay Area, generating an estimated 2,758 jobs. Home to American Airlines and SFO-based Virgin America, Terminal 2 is set to become the nation’s first LEED Gold-registered terminal and one of the most modern and sustainable terminals in the United States.

The Port of San Francisco is currently involved in more than $1 billion of new development projects along the waterfront. They include the Exploratorium at piers 15 to 17 and the new cruise ship terminal at Pier 27. At the groundbreaking event last fall, the Exploratorium projected that construction will generate 900 jobs over a two-year period, $300 million in short-term economic impact from construction, a $28 million annual increase in permanent long-term economic impact and $1.5 million net new total tax revenue.

Design work is under way for the demolition of the existing maritime shed at Pier 27. In its place, a new 96,000-square-foot terminal will be constructed and supplement the existing operations at Pier 35. The new $100 million terminal will be able to meet current and future needs of the cruise industry.

As we all know, San Francisco Bay will be home to the 2013 America’s Cup. Independent studies show that among major sporting events, the America’s Cup delivers the third-largest economic impact to host destinations, exceeded only by the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup. The 34th America’s Cup is projected to pump an estimated $1.4 billion into our economy and generate more than 8,000 jobs.

And literally next door to the San Francisco Travel Association offices, the Moscone East convention center expansion is taking shape. Our feasibility studies estimate that extending the Moscone South exhibit space east under Third Street by about 100,000 square feet, and adding meeting space above, would generate more than $340 million annually in incremental economic impact.

The key point to understand here is that while the investment to expand is made only once, the beneficial impact to the local economy accrues year after year. Civic and business leaders must find a way to make this expansion happen — the stakes are simply too high to let this opportunity slip away.

Yes, San Franciscans recognize the importance of tourism to our economy, but we can’t let that make us complacent. In order to ensure that we continue to generate revenue for San Franciscans, create jobs and generate taxes, we have to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for future success.


Joe D’ Alessandro is the president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, which has more than 1,600 members. D’Alessandro also serves on the California Travel and Tourism Commission and U.S. Travel Association board.

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