SAN FRANCISCO — Economic and political challenges in the past year have left California’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry in a precarious state.
It’s been especially troublesome for San Francisco, where The City’s No. 1 industry has suffered from declining revenue. Yet, state travel experts are hoping to help usher in more business for cities.
Next week, members of the travel industry will gather in San Francisco for the 28th annual California Travel Industry Association’s California Conference on Tourism, a three-day event featuring experts who will talk about how businesses can push through and succeed during these tough economic and political times.
“Now that the economy seems to be coming out of [the] recession and into recovery in fits and starts, the tourism industry is coming together to figure out what that means,” said Dan Goldes, chair of the conference. “We want to make sure that we are poised to be prepared for what is coming up in the next year.”
Bouncing back from the recession will continue to be a slow process for the travel industry, which generates $100 billion annually in California, Goldes said. On top of that, travel businesses are caught in the political crossfire of the Arizona boycott, he said.
“It is a big issue because travel, and tourism in this case, is to a certain extent being held hostage to politics,” Goldes said. “So it’s something we have to contend with.”
In 2009, San Francisco had 15.4 million visitors, a 5.8 percent decrease from 2008. Visitors spent $7.8 billion in 2009, a decrease of 7.8 percent from the previous year, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
That’s why San Francisco has been working to really attract smaller, statewide associations to host their conferences here as opposed to second-tier cities, Goldes said.
Typically, The City has no problem attracting national, prestigious organizations such as the American Heart Association. But now, with fewer conferences taking place locally, the Convention and Visitors Bureau is attempting to lure more local associations with smaller budgets, Goldes said.