Tourism in San Francisco could see a major shift in the numbers - here's why

Tourism in San Francisco could see a major shift in the numbers – here’s why

Tourism from Asia has finally started to return to San Francisco. In recent months, arrivals at San Francisco International Airport from most Asian countries are close to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, international air passenger traffic data shows. non-stop from the International Trade Administration (ITA).

The rise appears to be mainly due to the easing of travel restrictions in a number of countries.

South Korea began lifting travel restrictions in April, removing the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers and lifted all COVID travel restrictions from October 1. As a result, passenger numbers from South Korea more than doubled from September 2021 to September 2022, and just 14% below their September 2019 level.

In June, Taiwan reduced the isolation requirement from seven days to three, and in October lifted the requirement altogether. The number of passengers from Taiwan has increased from just over 2,000 in September 2021 to nearly 10,000 in September 2022.

Arrivals from India and Vietnam were actually higher in September than in 2019. Vietnam Airlines became a new carrier for SFO late last year and the first airline to connect Vietnam and the United States non-stop. Between November 2021 and June 2022, Vietnam Airlines flew 14,000 people from Vietnam to San Francisco.

SFO expects weekly return flights to Asia to increase from 108 today to 123 by December 2022 and marketing campaigns in Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong to increase tourism in 2023 .

Tourism from China expected to increase next year

Before the pandemic, more visitors arrived from Asia to SFO than from any other region, with more than 1.2 million people arriving between January and September 2019, compared to around 900,000 from Europe during the same period. From January to September 2022, 623,000 visitors came from Europe, more than 200,000 more than from Asia.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, China was second only to Canada in the number of travelers arriving at SFO each year. Carriers such as Air China, China Southern and China Western each carry 110,000 to 130,000 passengers a year to SFO, according to air passenger statistics.

Currently, United Airlines is the only company in the United States authorized by China to fly to SFO from China.

A United spokesperson said the company restarted service to Shanghai with a stopover in Seoul, South Korea, in July 2020. Prior to March 2020, United operated flights to Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.

Richard Champley, an analyst at ITA, which publishes the air passenger statistics used for this story, told the Chronicle that their data only tracks nonstop flights from foreign airports to US airports. Accordingly, the number of passengers from Shanghai is counted as if they came from Seoul due to the stopover in Seoul. As of December 2020, ITA data shows that there are almost no passengers coming directly from China. Yet even counting layover flights, SFO receives a small fraction of the travelers from China that it received before the pandemic.

An SFO spokesperson told The Chronicle they expect to see the return of passenger service from all pre-pandemic Chinese carriers when China’s COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased and service increases , hopefully will happen next year.

Currently, China only allows travelers to leave the country for specific situations such as work or medical situations.

Implications for the economy

Tourism from China accounted for more than a tenth of the $10.3 billion spent in San Francisco in 2019 by international overnight visitors, according to San Francisco executive vice president and chief tourism officer Hubertus Funke. Travel.

San Francisco has a large Chinese-American population that attracts tourists visiting family members and business travelers coming to conventions or on individual business, according to Gregory Miller, vice president of lodging and research. on experiential leisure stocks for Truist Securities.

“They spend a lot of money on their visits. It’s not just hotels. They spend a lot of money on shopping, eating and visiting attractions. There are a lot of implications for the economy of the city and the economy of the Bay Area with the loss of Chinese travelers,” Miller said.

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