SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Francisco tourism officials hope a kind gesture to cab drivers will translate into even more kind gestures for high-profile visitors coming to the city.

For the first time in 19 years, San Francisco is hosting the U.S. tourism industry’s largest convention known as the Travel Pow Wow, which starts Saturday.

To make sure the city makes a good impression, the San Francisco Travel Association – formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau – reached out to cab drivers two days before the Pow Wow.  The group filled four tables outside the Moscone Convention Center with box lunches from Boudin bakery to hand to taxi drivers when they pulled alongside the curb, along with a reminder to cabbies to be on their best behavior.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

The Travel Association’s Tom Kiely said $350 million tourism dollars are expected to come to San Francisco over the next three years because of the Pow Wow, which about 5,500 people attend. He added the giveaway had nothing to do with the latest controversy over the drivers’ protest against cab credit card fees.

“This was planned long ago,” Kiely said about the lunches for the drivers. “It really is an outreach so they know about the delegates arriving this weekend.”

Clark Claritin, who has been driving a taxi since he was 19 years old, appreciated the gesture.

“I like free lunches,” he said. “I like free soup, too.”

Kiely says cab drivers like Claritin are a kind of ambassadors for the travel professionals coming to San Francisco. Claritin is trying to live up to the responsibility.

“I don’t know if I’m a good ambassador or bad, but I try to be nice,” he said.

Tourism is San Francisco’s number one industry, employing 70,000 people and contributing over half a billion dollars in tax funds to city.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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