San Francisco’s travel and convention industry, which brought in $11 billion in 2019, received a serious blow when the organizer of a major convention decided not to hold it in person due to unclear coronavirus guidelines from state authorities, SFGate reported Thursday.
The American College of Rheumatology was supposed to hold a symposium, ACR Convergence 2021, at the city’s Moscone Center in November, San Francisco Business Times reported.
The event was projected to be a boon for local hotels with a total of 52,147 rooms being filled Nov. 1-12, including about 10,000 per night Nov. 6-8.
ACR Convergence 2021 would have injected about $31 million into the local economy through direct spending, which includes spending on hotel rooms and event organization expenses, according to the Business Times.
However, the American College of Rheumatology opted to hold the event remotely. As a result, prospective hotels received notices on Tuesday informing them that the contractual agreements for blocking rooms would be canceled.
The decision to make the convention a virtual-only event wiped out a major opportunity for the troubled hospitality sector in the state to improve its situation.
“Just last week, they reached out to us and notified the hotels,” Joe D’Allesandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, told SFGate. “They felt it wasn’t practical to have a live conference without more clarity.”
According to D’Allesandro, the event would have been the largest conference to take place in the city this year.
“The cancellation was primarily pandemic related,” he said. “They didn’t feel comfortable without having specific guidelines from the state about what conferences will look like in the fall. Sixty-five percent are international delegates and there’s a lot of uncertain[t]y about international arrivals in the states.”
Hotels in the city and the Moscone Center usually host 30 to 50 major conferences annually, SFGate reported.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Moscone was “fully booked” in 2020 and 2021, it said.
“We easily lost 60 citywide conventions and countless smaller meetings,” D’Allesandro said.
Right now, only eight to 10 conferences are planned for this year, according to SFGate.
— Cal OES (@Cal_OES) April 6, 2021
On April 6, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to fully reopen the state’s economy on June 15, depending on vaccine availability and hospitalization rates.
D’Allesandro said the news was “promising” but the state still has not released specific guidelines for conventions, conferences and meetings post-reopening.
“There are 170 organizations and entities encouraging the governor’s office to come up with guidelines that work,” he told SFGate. “Of course, we want to promote safety, we don’t want to do anything that is unsafe, but we need more clarity.”
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