SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – We’re now into November, and that means holiday season. A big sign of that is the opening of Union Square’s ice skating rink in San Francisco.

The rink opened Wednesday morning, and the public showed up to celebrate its opening, but you’ll also see some orange coats walking around the crowd. Those are the “Welcome Ambassadors.” It is a program that Mayor London Breed started last year to provide help to visitors and give them a sense of security.

The smash and grabs of last year’s holiday season is not what San Francisco wants to be known for. The crimes put the city’s public safety into question and added officers to every corner of Union Square.

Mayor London Breed is using the city’s Welcome Ambassadors to put visitors at ease — and so far it’s working.

“They put a smile on people’s faces,” Breed said. “I just took a picture with a visitor. She said I just got help from this guy here and I was wondering what was going on and she said I can tell you this is a great program. We love this program.”

The program celebrates one year and tracks over 4 million interactions with the public since the start. On Tuesday, the program awarded Moanna Sau Leaupepetele with Ambassador of the Year.

 “Making a huge difference for visitors, locals and businesses in the areas we cover,” she said.

According to Breed, the program isn’t just about greeting people in the city with smiling faces. It has also had an economic impact.

“There were some conventions that were having second thoughts about whether or not they were going to come back to San Francisco, and because of you they not only came back to San Francisco, but are looking towards the future of returning to San Francisco,” she said.

In 2021, shoppers were questioning if they should return to stores post-pandemic. Union Square Alliance represents stores, restaurants and hotels within 27 city blocks. Executive Director Marisa Rodriguez says a year of ambassadors has made a difference with shoppers.

“We’re seeing them fill up. We’re seeing foot traffic and people at intersections and just that energy and that vibrancy that Union Square is known for the heartbeat of the city,” she said. 

The ambassador program started with 50 people last October. Since then it has grown to 92 men and women walking around in orange.