SAN FRANCISCO -- Tourism officials here are betting a new advertising and marketing campaign will increase San Franciscos visitor count, which has been rising after staggering for three years.

We are in a period of steady recovery, said John Marks, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. We have a long way to go before we get back to the golden days of 2000, but were trending up.

Marks and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled an advertising slogan, Only in San Francisco, meant to reflect the citys geography and landmarks, diverse cultures, originality and acceptance of different lifestyles.

Its a slogan thats real because its an expression we often use, said Newsom. It will stick, and it will be with us a long time. The citys previous slogan was Americas Favorite City.

Newsom, the new mayor who garnered publicity for opening the doors for same-sex marriages, has been applauded by the citys tourism industry for his efforts to reduce the number of homeless people on the citys streets.

Hoteliers and others in the industry have long blamed the highly visible homeless population, considered the largest in the U.S. for a city its size, for discouraging tourism.

He and Marks said the city has entered a new period of optimism and that the uptick in visitor numbers shows interest in travel to San Francisco is growing.

The bureaus budget for the Only in San Francisco campaign is limited: $1.2 million, said Diane DeRose, the bureaus vice president of marketing. But the bureau hopes to develop partnerships with national merchants and travel suppliers to take the advertising campaign beyond the Bay area, she said.

The new theme will be incorporated into all of the bureaus marketing efforts, including those to consumers, meet- ings planners, travel agents and the international travel trade, DeRose said.

The bureaus Web site, at www.sfvisitor.org, was redesigned and incorporates the Only in San Francisco theme.

Marks reported some good news for the local tourism industry: Hotel occupancy for 2004 in San Francisco is projected to reach a 71% average for the year, up from 68% in 2003.

Visitor numbers continue to climb, from 13.7 million in 2002 to 14.3 million in 2003. Numbers have not been tabulated for the first half of 2004.

Meanwhile, the citys average room rate continues to be down significantly from the high in 2000 of $170 per night. The average room rate was $138 in 2003, and this year is expected to climb only to $145.

Marks said that travel to San Francisco for conventions, which makes up one-third of the visits, remains robust and that leisure tourism has returned, but the segment that continues to lag is independent business travelers.

A combination of a lackluster economy, which hit the Bay area particularly hard, and moves by companies to relocate operations outside of the city is the culprit, Marks said.

To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI