Mayor London Breed Announces Plan to Support the Return of Conventions to San Francisco
Mayor Breed proposes $4.6 million over two years to reduce the cost of rental rates for conventions in the Moscone Center
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu today announced a plan to invest $4.6 million to support the return of conventions to San Francisco. These funds will be used to reduce the cost of renting space at Moscone Center, San Francisco’s convention center, and are intended to attract conventions, conferences, trade shows, and other large events back to San Francisco. This funding is part of Mayor Breed’s efforts to support San Francisco’s downtown and economic recovery, including community ambassadors and activations in the area.
Conventions and the business travelers that they bring to the city are a key part of San Francisco’s $10 billion tourism industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential travel and large gatherings were suspended. With the reopening of businesses and activities, this investment demonstrates San Francisco’s commitment to welcoming and supporting the return of conventions to the city. The City’s commitment to regaining its convention industry comes as Salesforce today announced that Dreamforce, its annual convention and the world’s largest software event, is returning to San Francisco in September 2021.
“Conventions and conferences help support our downtown’s economy and tourism industry, and we’re so excited to welcome these events and their attendees back to our city,” said Mayor Breed. “Tourism and convention dollars help pay for important City services and allow us to take care of our most vulnerable residents. We’re making it even easier for organizers to host their next event in San Francisco, because bringing these activities will bring life and energy back to our downtown area and help our entire city recover.”
Mayor Breed plans to reduce the cost of rental rates for conventions at the Moscone Center with funding in her proposed City Budget, which will be introduced on June 1, 2021. The Mayor is proposing to dedicate $2.6 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 and $2 million in FY 2022-23. If approved in the budget, these funds will be available in late summer.
This support for conventions at the Moscone Center comes at a pivotal time, when the convention market is in flux as a result of COVID-19. As San Francisco focuses on confirming conventions that were postponed due to COVID-19 and reestablishing itself as a destination for conventions, it must compete with other cities that are working to attract convention business. This funding provides San Francisco with another tool to ensure this aspect of the city’s economy is supported and will help to confirm several pending conventions that are considering San Francisco and attract other conventions to the city.
“San Francisco is a dynamic and remarkable City to visit and a strong convention lineup helps anchor our tourism industry, supporting local businesses, hospitality and the entertainment industry,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, who also served as co-chair for the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force. “Our center is ready to welcome visitors back with enhanced operating protocols and this funding only strengthens our position in the competitive national market for convention business.”
San Francisco remains a competitive destination for conventions. San Francisco has been a national leader its response to COVID-19 and has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, demonstrating the City’s commitment to doing everything possible to protect the safety of its residents and anyone who want to visit. The City’s location as the “Gateway to the West,” its world class airport with global connectivity, and robust hospitality infrastructure, combined with its world-renowned restaurants and cultural institutions, and access to nature and global regional destinations such as Napa Valley and Big Sur, make it highly desirable as a location.
“Group convention business at Moscone Center fuels our economy, provides much needed tax revenues to the city and good jobs,” said Joe D’Alessandro, President and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “The convention market is highly competitive, and this Moscone Convention funding is essential in helping us attract group business and remain relevant in the aggressive convention market.”
San Francisco hosted more than 1,600 conventions and meetings in 2019, but that number dropped to a total of 29 conventions since April 2020. By drawing conventions back to San Francisco, the City is investing in the recovery of jobs and small businesses in its hospitality and entertainment industries, which bore the brunt of the economic impacts of COVID-19. Increased convention traffic brings hotel reservations, patrons to restaurants and bars and arts venues, and business to local shops and entertainment establishments. Based on the number of conventions currently considering San Francisco as a destination, the City expects the Moscone Convention funding will return approximately 140,000 to 150,000 room nights for San Francisco. This would generate almost $173 million in direct convention spending and almost $5 million in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). The TOT tax, generated from each room night booked at a San Francisco hotel, goes into the City’s General Fund to provide essential City services.
“Bringing back conventions, meetings and hotel room nights are critical to our economic health and future sustainability and viability,” said Kevin Carroll, President & CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. “Full hotels mean full restaurants and mean a full recovery for San Francisco. Full hotels mean more work not only for hospitality employees but for the tens of thousands of jobs and small businesses they support.”
The Moscone Convention Recovery Fund complements other recovery initiatives such as “SFWednesdays,” a series of activations in public space throughout downtown, the Downtown Community Ambassadors, and the Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan, all of which are aimed at increasing the return of San Francisco residents, commuters, and visitors to the downtown core of the City. A key aspect of the city’s economic recovery strategy prioritizes the return of San Francisco’s business and tourism industries – two industries that drive the city’s economy and create significant support for small businesses throughout the downtown and the city’s neighborhoods. Conventions support both these industries and advance broader economic vitality.