Tourism bounces back in SF after pandemic


Jameson Datoc '23

Tourists walk around Fisherman’s Wharf to get a taste of the San Francisco experience.

Hazel Nagata-Rampata ‘26, Staff Reporter

A city famous for its steep and winding streets, Alcatraz prison, being the birthplace of many iconic foods, and most importantly, its Golden Gate Bridge, is a place that many feel should have high tourism rates.

However, when the pandemic struck, San Francisco caught over 206,000 cases of Covid-19, and everything in the city practically stopped. Most in the Bay Area bought masks and stayed home, and so did the majority of tourists who usually traveled to SF. 

Before the pandemic hit the Bay Area in 2020, “more than 25.8 million people visited the destination in 2019, spending in excess of $10 billion,” according to SF Travel.

The following year, at the height of the pandemic, “total tourist spending was $2.3 billion, a 77.7 percent drop,” according to SF Travel. In addition, “total visitors were down 61 percent, to 10.2 million,” as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

This greatly affected the local businesses in San Francisco as they did not have much income, partly because no one wanted to dine in-person at local restaurants. This dilemma caused many small businesses to close, some even permanently. 

The Chronicle further reports, “More than 65,000 jobs supported by tourism were lost during the pandemic, a drop of 75.8 percent in one year for the city’s biggest industry.”

Members of The Crusader played tourist in April, visiting Ghirardelli Square before the National High School Journalism Convention. ( Leo Magnaye ’05)

This trend continued in 2021, with many not wanting to go out and especially fly to a different place, so San Francisco’s tourism rates were lower than before the onset of Covid-19, but they did show improvement. 

In 2021, San Francisco Travel reported “14.8 million visitors to the city, up from 2020, but down 44 percent from a record high of 26.2 million visitors in 2019.”

But, things eventually changed, and so did San Francisco. The businesses in SF started to reopen and the city’s rates are starting to grow.

San Francisco Travel reported a significant increase in visitors in 2022 with “21.9 million visitors to the city, up from 2021. Visitor spending was $7.4 billion in 2022, more than double the 2021 visitor spending of $3.56 billion.”

As for predictions for 2023, the San Francisco Travel Association reported “leisure travel is expected to continue its steady recovery and overall visitation to the city is forecast to reach 23.9 million in 2023. Total visitor spending is expected to grow from $7.4 billion in 2022 to $8.7 billion in 2023.”

Although recent reports of hotel, business, and mall owners abandoning San Francisco have caused concern, others still hope for a revival of San Francisco’s economy and small businesses that will create lasting memories for visitors and a sustainable future for the city.