San Francisco targets 21.5 million visitors in 2022

Tourist numbers up 26.5 pc & spending up 89.3 pc over 2021
/ New Delhi
San Francisco targets 21.5 million visitors in 2022

More than 26 million people visited San Francisco in 2019, spending USD 9.6 billion

After a lackluster performance for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Golden Gate Bridge City of San Francisco expects a sharp jump of over 89 pc in current year over 2021, with a more modest 26.5 pc rise in visitor numbers. The city has recorded a 142 pc jump in arrivals from India, making it one of the top five fastest growing markets worldwide.
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The San Francisco Travel Association is highly optimistic about the tourist numbers for 2022, forecasting a marked increase across board, from visitor volume, visitor spending, group business and hotel occupancy this year compared to 2021. The forecast was released by the association at its Annual Visitor and Lodging Forecast Forum held today at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

According to the association’s latest projections, San Francisco will receive 21.5 million visitors in 2022 compared to 2021’s 17 million visitors, an increase of 26.5 pc. Visitor spending is forecast to be up 89.3 pc in 2022 to USD 6.7 billion, but down 30.2 pc compared to 2019, when the city had a record 26.2 million visitors and USD 9.6 billion in visitor spending.

“We are clearly on the road to recovery, but we still have a way to go before we will reach pre-pandemic tourism levels. San Francisco will not see a full recovery until travelers from Asia return and business travel and group business increases,” says Joe D’Alessandro, San Francisco Travel’s president and CEO.

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organisation for the City and County of San Francisco. Tourism is San Francisco’s largest industry. More than 26 million people visited the destination in 2019, spending USD 9.6 billion. More than 86,000 jobs are supported by tourism in San Francisco.

According to a press release, the key factors driving this year’s recovery include an increased volume of domestic overnight and international visitors. In 2022, more than 6.9 million domestic overnight visitors are expected, an increase of 33 pc compared to 2021. The forecast reports San Francisco will see 1.5 million international visitors, a 163 pc increase over the previous year.

According to data provided by Tourism Economics, overnight domestic business travel has grown 134 pc compared to 2021, and spending is up 152 pc, but both are down more than 30 pc compared to 2019.

The outlook for 2023 anticipates sustained gains with an estimated 24.5 million visitors and USD 8.9 billion in visitor spending. San Francisco Travel’s current projections indicate visitor spending will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, and global visitation will not reach 2019 levels until 2025.

International visitors still down 50 pc from 2019

However, the association says that compared with 2019, international visitor volume is down 50 pc, with only half of 2019’s three million overnight international visitors projected in 2022. The press release emphasises that the return of international travellers is critical for San Francisco’s continued economic recovery. International overnight visitors accounted for USD 5.1 billion of the USD 9.6 billion in overall visitor spending in 2019. This year, international overnight visitors are expected to contribute 46 pc (USD 3.1 billion) of the USD 6.7 billion in visitor spending.

“One of our key priorities is driving increased international visitation as this segment stays the longest and spends the most,” says D’Alessandro. “We are pleased to see an increased number of visitors from countries we’ve focused our marketing efforts on this year given ongoing travel restrictions in parts of Asia,” he adds.

According to data provided by Oxford Economics, the top international inbound markets for San Francisco’s visitor volume are Mexico (up 51 pc), the U.K. (up 666 pc), Canada (up 499 pc), Germany (up 226 pc) and India (up 142 pc). The top overseas markets also include France (up 412 pc) and Australia (up 798 pc).

Data from Amadeus/TravelClick shows the states outside of California driving the most visitor volume to the city are Texas, New York, Florida, Washington, and Illinois.

The rise in tourist numbers is also driving San Francisco’s ranking among the top 25 US hotel markets which improved from 13th in 2021 to 5th for the month of June 2022. The city’s hotel occupancy is forecast to be 58.6 pc in 2022, a 67 pc increase compared to 2021 but still down 28.7 pc to 2019. The average daily rate (ADR) is projected to be USD 230.25, an increase of 41 pc compared to last year but down 16 pc from 2019. Revenue per available hotel room (RevPar) is projected to increase 104 pc compared to 2021 but remains down 37.4 pc from 2019.

In 2023, San Francisco Travel is forecasting further improvement. Occupancy is projected to be 72.5 pc with an ADR of USD 252.62 and a RevPar of USD 183.10. However, hotel occupancy is not expected to reach 2019 levels until 2025, although ADR is expected to slightly exceed 2019 figures by 2024.

The association says that after the omicron Covid-19 variant negatively impacted the first quarter, business travel and conventions bounced back in the second quarter. Growth in conventions business was significant given Moscone Center reopened only in September 2021. Last year, five events were held at Moscone Center, with 16,500 attendees accounting for 17,100 room nights. This year, conventions at Moscone Center are projected to account for nearly 350,000 room nights.

In 2022, 34 events are confirmed for Moscone Center with an expected 308,700 attendees. However, room nights tracked to citywide conventions remain well below pre-pandemic levels when 970,000 convention room nights actualised.

Convention room nights on the books for 2023 are up 84 pc over this year, with 637,753 definite room nights and 25,678 tentative room nights.

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