By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The San Francisco Travel Association says this is the first time in 20 years the top conference for event planners is being held in San Francisco. The welcome reception Sunday night was an opportunity to showcase San Francisco’s finest.

At Pier 48 in Mission Bay, there was live entertainment as well as food stations that reflected the different flavors and neighborhoods in San Francisco, including the Castro and Chinatown.

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The theme of the largest convention of the top event planners was “San Francisco Urban Hike,” designed to take thousands through the various sights and sounds of the city.

“I actually love it, I love seafood and I love the area,” said PCMA attendee Jaylin Chadwell. “I’m from Ohio, so I’m used to grey skies, bad weather, and I love that San Francisco is like sunny in the middle of January.”

Sunday marked Jaylin Chadwell’s first time visiting San Francisco, a city that has recently seen conferences relocate to more affordable locations. Oracle’s huge OpenWorld conference is moving to Las Vegas this year and it cited San Francisco’s high costs and poor street conditions, including homelessness and drug use. The loss will cost the city more than $60 million a year.

“San Francisco is an expensive place to hold a meeting, it’s an expensive place to live, it’s an expensive place to work, we all know this, but we really believe the value of coming to San Francisco is really strong,” said Joe D’Alessandro, President and CEO of San Francisco Travel Association.

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The nonprofit San Francisco Travel Association hosted Sunday’s welcome reception.

“2019 was the busiest year in this city’s history, in terms of meetings and conventions, and we’re optimistic about the future. It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take some partnership on behalf of the private sector and the city, to make sure the experience continues to be positive, but we’re confident we will be,” added D’Alessandro.

Some conference attendees say the city’s challenges are no different compared to other major metropolitan areas.

“There’s so many major cities that homelessness is becoming an actual epidemic, it’s in San Francisco, but when you look at Washington, D.C., New York City, it’s really growing,” said Patty Guigetti.

Pam Lackland from D.C. has been to San Francisco 25 times over the last 40 years.

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“It’s just a beautiful city, geographically, and as I said, I feel safe walking around it, and there’s so many great restaurants and things to see,” said attendee Pam Lackland.