San Francisco

Only 10 Million Visited San Francisco in 2020


The San Francisco Travel Association released tourism figures for 2020 at San Francisco Travel’s first all virtual Marketing Conference.

San Francisco Travel is reporting a total of 10.2 million visitors to the city in 2020, down 61.0 percent from a record high of 26.2 million in 2019.

Total spending by visitors was $2.3 billion, down 77.7 percent from a record high of $10.3 billion in 2019, including spending on meetings and conventions.

“After ten consecutive years of record-breaking outcomes for San Francisco’s tourism industry, 2020 has been a devastating year,” said Joe D’Alessandro, President and CEO of San Francisco Travel.

“The 2020 results are disappointing,” he continued. “However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Our market research shows that there is huge pent-up demand for travel all over the world. We expect demand in the domestic market to pick up first, followed by individual overseas markets. Countries like the United Kingdom who move quickly with vaccinations and provide a perspective for lifting travel restrictions do already see a significant increase in vacation bookings. 2021 will be another challenging year for our industry. We hope to see consistent improvement going forward during a multi-year recovery until we get back to 2019 levels.”

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) served a total of 16.4 million passengers, down 71.4 percent from 57.5 million in 2019.  International traffic fell 78.7 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Hotel Occupancy

“Room nights consumed by delegates attending Moscone Center conventions totaled 121,000, down 87.5 percent from prior year,” D’Alessandro said.  “Bringing the conventions business back into the city is one of our top priorities for the coming year.”

Average hotel occupancy using pre-COVID room night supply, was 27.2 percent, down 67.2 percent from 2019, while average daily rate was $206.11, down 24.5 percent.

International Visitor Volume

International visitors comprised 20.2 percent of overnight visitor volume, down from 28.3 percent a year earlier, and 52.3 percent of all overnight visitor spending in 2020. San Francisco welcomed 570,000 international visitors in 2020, down 80.7 percent from 2.9 million in 2019.

The top five markets for visitor volume in 2020 were Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, China and India.

International Visitor Spending

International visitors spent $829 million, down 83.8 percent from $5.1 billion in 2019.

The top five markets for visitor spending in 2020 were Mexico, China, India, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Far Reaching Economic Impact

Daily visitor spending equated to $5.8 million, down 77.9 percent from $26.2 million in 2019.  The average visitor spent $207.91 per day, down 43.0 percent from $364.94 in 2019.  Convention attendees spent an average of $182.26 per day, down 68.8 percent from $584.32 in 2019.

The number of jobs supported by tourism in San Francisco fell to 20,880 from 86,111 in 2019, a decline of 75.8 percent.

There was an average of 27,911 visitors in San Francisco each day, down 61.1 percent from 71,805 in 2019.

The tourism industry generated $273.4 million in taxes and fees for the City of San Francisco in 2020, down 66.6 percent from $819.7 million in 2019.  Major contributors to that figure include hotel tax (43.6 percent) and property tax (33.1 percent).

On a per capita basis, visitors spent $2,359.00 per San Francisco resident, compared to $10,820 in 2019.  In 2020, visitors generated $732.00 in taxes per San Francisco household, down from $2,198 in the previous year.

“As a result of the pandemic, visitor spending in San Francisco dropped 80% in 2020, and City revenue generated by tourism dropped by 67%, which has been devastating for our local economy,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

“Tourism has been an economic powerhouse of our city for years, delivering a critical source of tax revenue for our community. These dollars allow us to secure jobs, and to fund vital local services – teachers, firefighters, support for vulnerable populations, health and safety, and much more. Now as our Covid numbers improve and we are rapidly vaccinating thousands of people every day, we need to continue our efforts to reopen businesses, put residents back to work and start welcoming visitors. This is critical for our economic recovery and the future of our city.”

Outlook in the future

San Francisco Travel expects that the situation will gradually improve moving forward. Overall visitation to the city is forecast to reach 15.3 million in 2021. Overall visitor spending is expected to grow from $2.1 billion in 2020 to $3.5 billion in 2021. Total visitation is anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. Spending will not be back to 2019 levels before 2025 due to a slower recovery of international visitors and average rate in the city.

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the metropolitan areas in the U.S. that has consistently kept Covid-19 largely under control. The  COVID-19 Prevention & Enhanced Cleaning Guidelines put forth by the Hotel Council of San Francisco, ensure that our hospitality businesses are adhering to the most elaborate cleaning and safety protocols. San Francisco Travel invites all visitors who are planning to come in 2021 to contribute their part to a safe and enjoyable experience by taking our Safe Travel Pledge.

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