San Francisco visitor spending drops 58% in 2021, full recovery not likely until 2025

San Francisco visitor spending drops 58% from 2019 to 2021

San Francisco, one of the world’s most popular attractions for tourists and business travelers, has experienced a significant struggle since the COVID-19 pandemic started significantly affecting it and much of the rest of the world in March 2020. By some measures, the city was harmed more from an economic standpoint than any other in the United States, and it not expected to fully recover until 2025.

Amanda Hite, the president of STR, a hospitality research firm that released these numbers and forecast, said on Wednesday that she and her company had expected business travel, which encompasses a significant portion of those who normally travel to San Francisco during non-pandemic times, to start returning after Labor Day. However, that was before the delta variant caused the city’s recovery to plateau instead of continuing to improve.

San Francisco drone shot

The occupancy rate within the city is up to 50%, which is a significant improvement over a year ago but still a notable decrease over the 80% figure from two years ago. The average room rates have also experienced similar fluctuations, going from $240 in July 2019 to $100 in April 2020 to $175 in July 2021.

As far as visitor numbers go, they went from 26 million in 2019 to 10 million in 2020 to an expected year-end total in 2021 of 16 million. Also, spending has gone from $9 billion in 2019 to $3 billion in 2020 to an expected $4 billion in 2021.

Hotel room stays have dropped precipitously, from 1.2 million in 2019 to 120,000 a year ago to 50,000 so far in 2021.

Also harming the recovery was the Moscone Center, where most of the city’s largest conventions are held, being completely closed to them for more than a year so that it could house COVID-19-related activities instead. Six events are scheduled there between now and the end of 2021 with 35 more scheduled in 2022.

San Francisco Golden Bridge

One set of numbers has unquestionably placed San Francisco at the top of the country as it relates to economic damage: passenger numbers through San Francisco International Airport. No other American airport has lost more passengers. Normally, 44 airlines operate through the airport; that dropped to four in 2020 and is currently at 28.

Through Thursday, San Francisco has 20 confirmed cases per 100,000 people per day. That is less than half of the corresponding figure for the United States as a whole: 47. The city also has a vaccination mandate related to many indoor activities, including going to restaurants and gyms.