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About The Bay: San Francisco Tourism Officials Count On Locals For Help

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge. (John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty Images)

View of the Golden Gate Bridge. (John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Tourism is arguably San Francisco’s biggest industry, and it’s no secret that it’s been in the doldrums the last few years. But, later this month, the City plays host to one of the most important conventions in two decades – and local leaders are counting on – who else? – the locals to help San Francisco capitalize on the potential for a payday of epic proportions.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports in his travels About the Bay:

“This is a really good chance for all of us, every single San Franciscan, to make a good impression to the world,” stressed Laurie Armstrong with the San Francisco Travel Association.

Travel Pow Wow will bring an estimated 5,000 international travel professionals and writers to San Francisco May 21 – 25, potentially generating $350 million for San Francisco over the next few years – assuming the City by the Bay makes a good impression on convention attendees.

“We have other conventions that are much larger, you know,” acknowledged Armstrong. “Oracle comes in, MacWorld comes in, but none that are the gift that keep on giving the way this one is.”

“So even though we all know we should be nice to visitors all the time, especially in the next few weeks we want to make sure that when we hear a foreign language we put on an extra bright smile,” she continued.

San Francisco last played host to Travel Pow Wow in the 1990s, and according to Armstrong, the City is still reaping the benefits of that convention. Still, the local tourism industry is in need of a big boost nowadays.

“We know that 2009 was a pretty rotten year, 2010 was a better year and we think that trend is going to continue,” she described the recent trend in San Francisco.

An estimated 16 million tourists did come to San Francisco last year. But, they weren’t necessarily spending generously and freely.

“Money’s tight,” observed Mick Menigol, a skipper for one of those hallmark Fisherman’s Wharf Bay cruises. “$5 a gallon for gas, guys are losing houses, losing jobs and stuff. The last thing they want to do is give us money to go for a little boat ride.”

Perhaps more anecdotally, David Johnson – known down by the wharf simply as the Bushman – confirmed things are slower. He’s been scaring people by popping out from behind shrubbery for the past 31 years, then asking for a tip.

“Kind of slow, yeah. I don’t know, it’s just the people ain’t comin’ out here,” he lamented. “It ain’t like it used to be. It used to be I could make $200, $300 a day. Only make $50 a day now.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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