- San Francisco is investing millions of dollars in a tourism campaign it hopes will revive its pre-pandemic travel appeal
- SF failed to win back the same number of tourists as in 2019
- The ad campaign comes amid an ongoing rise in violent crime, homelessness and store closures in the city
The city of San Francisco has launched its largest advertising campaign to attract tourists and business travelers to the city, which is suffering from an intense and never-ending homelessness, drug addiction and crime crisis.
The campaign, dubbed “Always San Francisco,” cost a whopping $6 million and is being led by the city’s Bureau of Tourism.
This includes the city’s first television commercial, a kind of music video intended to emphasize the city’s uniqueness and diversity.
The campaign comes at a time when public drug use and high-profile crime are devastating San Francisco, and urges politicians to do more to clean up the California city.
The Always San Francisco video features the quirky characters who live in San Francisco – including Lady Camden, a drag queen made famous by RuPaul’s Drag Race. The campaign comes as San Francisco grapples with rampant crime, homelessness and drug use that have displaced businesses and consumers
The commercial, based on a new version of the song “San Francisco,” originally made famous by Jody Garland, will air in multiple markets including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC and Houston.
The minute-long music spot features a range of local talent, including Lady Camden, a drag queen made famous by RuPaul’s Drag Race, and local muralist Sirron Norris.
A digital advertising campaign will also reach international markets. The effort is funded by a city grant, a grant from the State Bureau of Tourism and San Francisco Travel.
Since the country overcame its COVID-related travel scare, San Francisco has not been able to match its pre-pandemic visitor numbers.
According to the SF Travel Association, the city welcomed 26.2 million visitors in 2019. Because of the pandemic, that number bottomed out in 2020, but only reached 21.9 million in 2022.
In 2022, numerous major conferences and events, including the Outside Lands music festival, returned to the city in full force, resulting in $7.4 billion in spending — more than double 2021’s figure.
However, a handful of high-profile criminal cases and a string of retail closures due to rampant and unpunished theft have tarnished the city’s image with potential visitors.
According to one analysis, San Francisco is suffering the slowest downtown recovery of all 62 largest cities in the US and Canada post-pandemic.
Traveler numbers in San Francisco continue to decline, not returning to pre-pandemic levels. Some major conference organizers have said they will no longer choose to hold their events in the city, specifically because of homelessness. A homeless man is spotted on the streets of San Francisco as officials struggle to solve the city’s seemingly endless problems
The recovery is being slowed further as businesses have announced plans to abandon downtown SF.
Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Saks Off 5th, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Office Depot have all decided to vacate their downtown locations.
Even before the pandemic, organizers began making differing decisions about where to hold their conferences. In 2018, a major medical industry conference announced they would be meeting elsewhere because of the city’s homelessness issues.
SF expects 23.9 million visitors in 2023, spending a total of $8.7 billion. Record spending was reached in 2019 and amounted to $9.6 billion.
However, given the problems the city is facing and without much progress in cleaning up the streets, that number could be lower.
The new San Francisco campaign cost the city and various state funds and supporters $6 million. The campaign comes amid the city’s ongoing struggle with a severe crime and homelessness crisis
Public order in San Francisco has consistently fueled a proliferation of homeless, drug addicts, and mentally unstable populations on the city’s streets.
The city also faces an increasing problem of violent crime. Tech executive Bob Lee became one of the city’s youngest murder victims last month.
Lee, 43, was allegedly murdered by another technology executive on April 4 while visiting San Francisco from Miami, where he and his family moved last year.
A coroner’s report reveals in vivid detail how Lee was found slumped in front of a block of flats without a pulse before paramedics rushed him to the hospital, where knife wounds were found on his heart and one lung.
He died with ketamine, cocaine and alcohol in his system.
In another criminal incident, 53-year-old Don Carmignani, a former fire chief, has been charged with using pepper spray on a homeless man who then brutally attacked him with a metal crowbar.
Carmignani suffered a fractured skull and jaw. Prosecutors can charge him with pepper spraying the homeless man and instigating the attack. However, the city’s district attorney has opted not to prosecute the homeless man for acting in “self-defense.”
The number of homeless people in San Francisco was nearly 8,000 as of February last year, the second-highest number since 2005, according to the government’s official triennial census.
Cash App founder Bob Lee died of stab wounds outside a San Francisco apartment building. Former fire chief Don Carmignani suffered a fractured skull and jaw in the attack and required 51 stitches after 24-year-old Garrett Doty allegedly hit him in the head with a crowbar
Various liberal politicians and city leaders have attempted to implement numerous measures to stem the many problems created by the growing homeless and drug addict population.
One specific harm reduction policy that failed was the opening of the Tenderloin Center last year to help alleviate the city’s drug and homelessness crises.
It cost taxpayers a whopping $22 million and was intended to be a “safe place” for addicts to “get high without getting mugged” and without fear of a fatal overdose.
Users should also be referred to help centers, although in the first four months of operation only 18 of the more than 23,000 people welcomed to the site were referred.
Overall, less than one percent of visits ended with a “complete link” to behavioral health programs.
Despite their efforts, over 500 people died from overdoses in San Francisco in 2022. In 2021 there were 641.
Many people living on the streets suffer from serious illnesses that are often made worse by substance use.