With San Francisco’s downtown becoming a relative ghost town, what can we expect in the future for tourism?
In 2019, the United States had 79.4 million international visitors, a figure that plummeted to 19.2 million in 2020 as the pandemic hit and rose to just 22.1 million in 2021.
International visitors spent $239.4 billion in 2019, but just $81 billion in 2019, the Commerce Department said.
Before COVID, tourism supported 9.5 million U.S. jobs and generated $1.9 trillion in economic output.San Francisco was hit hard, but mostly downtown where tourists tend to stay. The neighborhoods thrived, while many businesses in the downtown area closed or downsized. My favorite Uniqlo store on Powell, near the cable car turntable is gone. In fact, during the pandemic, the cable cars were also garaged in the cable car barn.
The “National Travel and Tourism Strategy” sets a goal of 90 million international visitors by 2027 who will spend an estimated $279 billion annually, topping pre-pandemic levels, the department told Reuters.
“There are a lot of industries that are well past COVID – travel and tourism is not,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview.Based on my last few trips to Europe, people in the EU and surrounding areas want to visit the US. But they view it as a cumbersome process, as well as expensive for airfare and hotels.
Other goals include promoting more diverse U.S. tourism experiences beyond coastal states, reducing tourism’s contributions to climate change and building a sector that is resilient to natural disasters, public health threats and the impacts of climate change.
One reason tourism fell so sharply was the United States lagged many other countries in lifting COVID border restrictions that barred much of the world from entering. The U.S. rules were not eased until November 2021.
The United States still requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated against COVID and nearly all international air passengers to test negative before travel. U.S. airlines say nearly all other countries they serve are not requiring testing. And yes, as of May 27, I needed a negative covid test to re-enter the US even though I am double boostered!!!
With the proverbial shoe on the other foot, the countries I visited last month, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, and France were overjoyed to have American tourists back. Why? Americans are the best tippers, friendlier than most other tourists, and willing to spend money to get out of their comfort zone. My Greek brothers often lament that the tour groups from certain countries rarely deviate from their hotel meals and guided bus trips. Americans love to explore, find interesting food, and unique retail items to take home.