Community in Crisis

Keeping conferences in San Francisco amid homelessness, high costs

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco has long been plagued with bad press about dirty streets, homelessness and high costs and now that Oracle’s OpenWorld conference has moved out of San Francisco, the city is now taking the opportunity to change the narrative. 

The newly expanded and renovated Moscone Center is welcoming more than 4,600 meeting and event planners from around the world for the annual PCMA conference.

“It’s really a great opportunity to showcase the beauty and diversity of this place and we want to make sure we take advantage of that,” said Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. 

D’Alessandro says the key is to show the higher costs associated with San Francisco are worth it because of the new hotels and restaurants, the new Chase Center and the city’s cultural offerings.

“Groups that are cost sensitive will go to less expensive city, but they get value coming to a world class city, a city with a lot of international air lift — which San Francisco does have,” D’Alessandro said. 

In fact, the head of the conference says being in San Francisco has made a difference.

“Certainly every city has challenges, homelessness and costs,” said Sherrif Karamat, PCMA president and CEO.  “I won’t shy away from that, but the reality is when we come here we do better. Our attendance is up and members are more engaged and immersed in the community.”

Attendees cite numerous pluses about the city.

However, San Francisco’s issues around homelessness and costs continue to play a role in locating conferences here

“It’s very expensive to produce events here, and because thats so high, anyone who has a ticketed event it makes those ticket prices go up,” said one attendee.

“Our membership is predominantly women so I am always concerned the attendees feel they can be safe when going to a city, especially if it is somewhere they haven’t been before,” another person said.

The conference runs through Wednesday they plan to go out on a high note Tuesday night with a Maroon 5 concert at Chase Center.

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