San Francisco Chronicle

City tourism spending more than doubled in 2022

- By Roland Li Reach Roland Li:­; Twitter: @rolandlisf

San Francisco tourism spending, which powers the local economy’s biggest sector, more than doubled to $7.4 billion in 2022 from the prior year as the city partially recovered from the pandemic.

Spending volume in 2022 was 77 percent of the record high $9.6 billion in 2019, before the pandemic. A full spending recovery is expected by 2024, though hotel rates aren’t expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026, according to San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau.

Leisure and business spending generated $522 million in fees and taxes in 2022, and a continued recovery is critical as city leaders face a potential $728 million deficit over the next two fiscal years.

The number of visitors grew 29 percent to 21.9 million in 2022 from the prior year, and internatio­nal visitors more than tripled to 1.7 million, largely from Europe. China’s border reopening is expected to boost San Francisco this year, as Chinese tourists were the biggest spenders before the pandemic, accounting for $1.2 billion in 2019.

“The incredible growth in 2022 was fueled largely by internatio­nal leisure travelers and our convention business,” said Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of San Francisco Travel, in a statement. “We made significan­t headway in 2022 through targeted efforts to attract overseas travelers and secure events for Moscone Center.”

Last year saw the full return of the Dreamforce conference, which drew a sold out, in-person crowd of 40,000 people at Moscone Center, along with major events like Outside Lands and Pride.

There were 33 Moscone Center convention­s in 2022, up from five in 2021 but less than the 49 in 2019. Convention attendees accounted for 347,788 hotel room nights.

Momentum is continuing this year, with 35 convention­s booked for Moscone Center, accounting for 673,000 projected room nights.

Visitor spending is expected to rise to $8.7 billion in 2023 — 90 percent of 2019 levels — and visitor volume is forecast to grow to 23.9 million.

Hotel occupancy rose to 62.1 percent in 2022, up from 43.7 percent from 2021. The average daily hotel rate was up 41 percent to $231.12. In 2022, jobs supported by tourism almost doubled to 53,156, up from 27,318 last year but below the over 86,000 jobs in 2019.

San Francisco Internatio­nal Airport passenger traffic was over 42.3 million passengers in 2022, and the airport expects over 50 million this year. It anticipate­s it will reach 2019 levels between 2025 and 2026.

“San Francisco is not yet reaching pre-pandemic numbers as anticipate­d, but we expect to see further growth this year, especially as we begin to welcome back more travelers from Asia,” D’Alessandro said. “With the return of flight routes to SFO from cities across Asia and an ease on testing requiremen­ts, we should see increases in internatio­nal visitation and spending.”

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