San Francisco’s tourist association is setting it sights firmly on enticing European travellers to the city in 2022.
With new flights to Europe, new hotels and the promotion of the green side of the city, San Francisco wants to be on top of the list for European travellers heading to the USA this summer.
Like many urban destinations around the world, San Francisco braced harsh times in 2020 and 2021 with the closure of US borders. However, 2022 is bringing a new impetus to the city’s tourism sector with a strong focus on European markets. “European source markets were crucial to San Francisco tourism in the past,” said Hubertus Funke, Executive Vice President & Chief Tourism Officer of San Francisco Travel Association. “And we strongly believe that it will now drive our international tourism recovery.”
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, San Francisco hit a tourism record of 26.2 million visitors, of which 2.9 million were international travellers.
Last year, the San Francisco Travel Association reported that the city had welcomed 14.8 million visitors , up 25% from 2020, but down 44% from its 2019 record high. Due to ongoing border restrictions San Francisco welcomed just 481,000 international visitors in 2021, down 4% from 2020 and down 84% from 2019.
But all hopes are on 2022 as most countries have lifted travel restrictions and airlines have re-established flights. The San Francisco Travel Association expects that the situation will gradually improve over the summer.
Overall visitation to the city is forecast to reach 21.9 million in 2022 while overall spending is expected to grow from $3.1 billion in 2021 to $6.1 billion in 2022. Total visitation and spending are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
Dedicated microsite for France, Germany and the UK
Europe is seen as a leading inbound market for the Californian city as Funke explained. “We see a strong recovery from Europe due to pent-up demand during the last two years,” he said. “Countries such as France, the UK or Germany are likely to drive that recovery process.”
He estimates that the three markets – France, the UK and Germany – could generate between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors to the city on an annual basis.
Funke also revealed that he is particularly happy about the return of international air frequencies. This summer, 13 European carriers are flying to San Francisco. One of the new airlines is Condor which will fly out of Frankfurt (three times a week). Returning carriers include Iberia – during the summer season – while airlines such as Air France and Virgin Atlantic added more flights for the summer.
Since the reopening of the US to foreign travellers on November 8, 2021, the San Francisco Travel Association has launched aggressive marketing campaigns with the theme “Our Gate is Open,” targeting consumers and travel trade in the UK, Germany and France. The multi-channel campaigns encompass digital advertising, an interactive microsite, social media and partnerships with online travel agencies (OTAs), airlines and the travel trade.
So what will make San Francisco particularly attractive to European visitors in 2022? “We have a lot of exciting news,” explained Funke. “The metropolis will see many new hotels opening such as the Moxy Hotel by Marriott or the Waldorf Astoria. In the last two years, the AC Hotel by Marriott and the Marriott SOMA Mission Bay opened their doors. “San Francisco has never been more affordable thanks to added hotel capacity. Hotel availability is not anymore an issue.”.
New parks to enhance San Francisco appeal
San Francisco also focuses its communication on nature and outdoors this year the city will experience the opening of new parks.
On 27 April, San Francisco mayor inaugurated the new “Francisco Park” in the Russian Hill neighbourhood. Located on a former abandoned reservoir, this park of nearly 2 hectares will be the link between the famous zing-zaging Lombard Street and Ghiradelli Square. Transforming the old reservoir into a park helped creating new ecosystems for birds, bees and butterflies, and more generally preserve the urban environment. The park also offers fabulous views over the San Francisco Bay.
Another major project will be the opening of the Presidio Tunnel Tops on 17 July. Built above the Presidio Parkway tunnel that leads to the Golden Gate Bridge, the site will offer some 5.6 hectares of additional greenery in the heart of the Presidio park. Presidio Tunnel Tops will feature trails, picnic tables, gathering spaces, gardens and fields with 180 varieties of plants, all with 360-degree views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.