SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It didn’t take much to notice the devastating impact the COVID-19 outbreak had on the usually vibrant San Francisco tourism industry in 2020.
Hotel rooms were shuttered, the Moscone Center became a mass vaccination site instead of hosting conventions, the city’s famed cable cars were idled in their storage yard, and there were empty gates at San Francisco International Airport.READ MORE: Twitter To Pay $809 Million To Settle Class Action Lawsuit Brought By Investors
With business restrictions now lifting, tourists should return in 2021 but just how costly the pandemic has been came to light Wednesday when the San Francisco Travel Association published its statistics for 2020 spending.
Only 10.2 million people visited San Francisco in 2020, a drop of 61 percent from the 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.”
But the emergence of new variants overseas will have a lingering impact on the industry in 2021.
“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,” D’Alessandro said.READ MORE: KPIX Original Report: SF Mission Bay Sidewalks Sinking But City Won't Fix 'Private Property'
San Francisco International Airport is again bustling with travelers, but the return has been slow. The airport served a total of 16.4 million passengers in 2020, down 71.4 percent from 57.5 million in 2019. International traffic fell 78.7 percent from 2019 to 2020.
The average hotel occupancy using pre-COVID room night supply, was 27.2 percent, down 67.2 percent from 2019, while the average daily rate was $206.11, down 24.5 percent.
“Bringing the conventions business back into the city is one of our top priorities for the coming year,” D’Alessandro said.
The top five markets for visitor volume in 2020 were Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, China and India with international visitors spending $829 million, down 83.8 percent from $5.1 billion in 2019.
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.
The pandemic also has had a devastating impact on thousands who work in the tourism industry and on the city’s revenues.
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.MORE NEWS: Motorcyclist Airlifted To Hospital After Crash Near Bethel Island
Meanwhile, the tourism industry generated $273.4 million in taxes and fees for 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).