Tourists make important contributions to the San Francisco economy. In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic more than 26 million visitors travelled to San Francisco. Tourism for both business and leisure is a major source of revenue for local businesses and government. Tourist spending at hotels, restaurants, retail businesses, and other establishments generates a great deal of economic activity and supports jobs in San Francisco. The pandemic greatly reduced tourism and its economic contributions to the city.
This pages tracks data on two key tourism metrics:
- Hotel Occupancy
- Enplanements at SFO Airport
The Hotel Occupancy rate estimates the percentage of hotel rooms that were booked each night. The monthly hotel occupancy is an average of the occupancy rate each night of the month.
Enplanements are the number of passengers boarding planes from the San Francisco Airport (SFO).
Why do we track these metrics?
Many tourists stay in hotels when they visit San Francisco. Hotel occupancy rate gives us insight into how many people are travelling to San Francisco for tourism. Understanding hotel occupancy trends helps us predict trends in tourism related revenue and employment.
Tourists often visit the city at specific times of the year. This means that hotel occupancy has strong seasonal trends and over time the same months of the year have consistently lower or higher occupancy rates than other times of the year. In the data displayed here, we use a statistical technique called seasonal adjustment to balance the underlying data so that normal season-to-season variation is accounted for. This allows us to better see and understand trends across different periods and makes it easier to see the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry.
Many tourists fly into and out of the city when they visit. Tourists that fly in to San Francisco tend to come from further away and stay longer than tourists who drive or take other modes of transit into the city, thus these tourists tend to have a greater economic impact on the city. International travelers are associated with highest levels of economic activity because they have invested a great deal of effort and resources in to their trip and usually stay for longer amounts of time,
Like hotel occupancy, enplanements give us another source of information about how many people are coming to San Francisco for tourism. Understanding air travel trends helps us predict trends in tourism related revenue and employment.
How do we interpret these metrics?
Hotel occupancy dropped dramatically in April 2020. It slowly increased through to December 2022, though not steadily.
After a steep decline in January of 2022 likely due to the Omicron surge, hotel occupancy rebounded rapidly. By March 2022, the city saw significantly higher occupancy rates than it saw in 2020 and 2021. However, by the end of 2022, occupancy rates were still lower than before the pandemic.
Air travel dropped to an unprecedented low in April 2020. Over the rest of 2020 and 2021, plane-based travel activity increased very slowly. By the end of 2022, enplanements had not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Like hotel occupancy, January 2022 experienced a decline in enplanements for both domestic and international destinations due in large part to the Omicron surge.
International travel took longer to begin to recover than domestic travel. However, by September 2022, international and domestic enplanements were both about 80% of their pre-pandemic numbers.
Since air travel varies by season, we compare the same month across different years. Both domestic and international air travel increased when comparing the same month from 2021 to 2022.