San Francisco Tourism Recovering After 61 Percent Drop in 2020

March 27, 2021 Updated: March 30, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO—The tourism industry in San Francisco is starting to recover from a devastating 2020, as lockdowns and other COVID-19-related restrictions are being eased.

Total visitors last year dropped 61 percent from a year earlier to 10.2 million, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, the city’s tourism bureau, which also said visitors’ spending slumped to $2.3 billion, a 78 percent tumble from 2019’s record high of $10.3 billion.

The president of the association predicted in the report that domestic travelers will return ahead of international visitors.

On March 23, the city moved up to the less restrictive Orange Tier of the state’s reopening map. That means that many indoor activities like museums, places of worship, movie theaters, and restaurants may open at 50 percent capacity.

Some of the top attractions in the city, such as Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, are seeing tourism gain momentum again as more people are allowed for indoor, as well as outdoor, dining.

Epoch Times Photo
Pier 39 in San Francisco is seeing more tourists on March 25, 2021, as the city eases pandemic restrictions into the Orange Tier. (Ilene Eng/The Epoch Times)

Small businesses that had to reduce employees and hours in order to break even are also seeing hope.

“We’re starting to see more people in, coming down for lunch. We have more people walking in the area, we have more tourists from [the] state, out of state also. So we’re getting a little bit more relief, better relief, more customers going around, shopping around,” Alfredo Mendez, owner at Pal Electronics Inc., told NTD Television.

Tom La Torre, co-owner of the restaurant Sabella and La Torre, said the restaurant is doing about a third of the business it was doing compared to before the pandemic. The family-owned restaurant had 35 employees a year ago; now, there are 10.

“We get real busy on the weekends, so people [come] from the Bay Area, from all over, just to come out and get away,” La Torre told NTD Television. “Business is coming back. I see the tour buses go by now—the double-deckers—they have people on [them], so it’s a good sign. Alcatraz is open, so it seems like things are going to come back. It may take a while.”

They said they see more domestic tourists than international ones.

Epoch Times Photo
The restaurant Sabella and La Torre at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on March 25, 2021. The restaurant is seeing about a third of its usual number of customers. (Ilene Eng/The Epoch Times)

Kristin Montoya, a tourist from New Mexico who was visiting San Francisco for the first time, told NTD Television: “I don’t know what I was really expecting, but it’s really nice. I love the ocean, I love it. So it’s just a fun last-minute trip.”

Andrea, a tourist from Southern California, drives up to San Francisco once in a while.

“[We’re] doing a road trip right now for spring break for my son. It’s his first time, so I brought him up here. I took advantage of the fact that it’s actually empty. There’s not many people, and I’m able to explore, walk around without the concerns or worries of having something covering my face,” Andrea told NTD Television.

San Francisco’s tourism is expected to continue to gradually recover and may return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, the travel association stated in the report. A full rebound in revenue isn’t expected until 2025, due to a slower recovery of international visitors and average rate in the city, the association said.