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San Francisco tourism industry crippled by pandemic

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — The pandemic is crippling San Francisco’s tourism industry.

A new forecast from the the San Francisco Travel Association expects to see a loss of nearly $11 billion over the next two years.

San Francisco’s legendary Palace Hotel established in 1875 now has it’s entrance blocked off by planters and plywood — temporarily closed because of coronavirus, along with 52 other hotels in the city.

Some of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, like Chinatown — nearly deserted with shops and restaurants gated shut.  

“Last year was our 10th year in a row of record breaking numbers and this year it’s just all collapse,” Joe D’Alessandro said.

D’Alessandro, the president and CEO of San Francisco Travel, has the grim economic outlook.

We are expected to get less than half the visitors we got last year — and that’s going to cost us a whole lot of money.

In 2019, tourists spent nearly $10 billion.

This year — that total is expected to plummet 67% to just over three billion. A $7 billion difference which we will feel because it’s going to translate to fewer tax dollars that fund city services. But the pain is being felt in other ways too.

“90,000 people last year were employed in the visitor industry. These are neighbors of ours friends and family members who don’t have a job this year and also a lot of small businesses that really depend on the tourism, whether it’s a restaurant or retailer bookstore or performing arts or an art gallery. You name it. Visitors really contribute to the quality of life spending their money.”

Driving a lot of this, the shutdown of conventions and large gatherings like Outside Lands. They expect to see more visitors return next year, but don’t expect a full recovery until 2025. And even that hinges on a vaccine or an effective treatment.

The San Francisco Travel Association says they support the city’s cautious response, but are hoping its ban on hotel rooms for leisure travelers to be lifted soon. With so much of the city’s iconic tourist spots outdoors, they believe travelers could still get a change of scenery safely. 

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