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San Francisco Travel Association Hosts 111th Annual Meeting

2021 Tourism Award Winners Announced, New SF Travel Board Chair Ike Kwon Installed

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Dec. 1, 2021 (San Francisco) – Over 400 travel and tourism leaders gathered on Dec. 1 from across the Bay Area to attend San Francisco Travel Association’s 111th Annual Meeting at The Regency Ballroom.

The sold-out, in-person event featured updates on tourism from industry leaders and San Francisco Travel President and CEO Joe D’Alessandro. San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed was the keynote speaker.

Last year’s virtual event honored the spirit of collaboration and resilience in the face of the pandemic. This year’s meeting amplified that and rallied around the theme “Our Gate is Open,” with the official destination marketing organization for the city and county emphasizing its continued core focus on sales and marketing in 2022 and new initiatives, including reclaiming the narrative for San Francisco with one that tells the real story of life in the City by the Bay.

In her remarks, Mayor Breed urged attendees to come together in support of their incredible city: “We need this industry, from our airlines to our hotels to our businesses to our artists, to be the people to define what San Francisco is. We need all of you to tell the stories about what San Francisco is because you have your own experiences. I am committed to continuing to work with SF Travel to do just that.”

Addressing recent challenges, Mayor Breed said: “Our response has been a strong response. We are committed to making people feel safe in San Francisco. I am going to do everything I can to make the necessary investments that lead to improved conditions of our streets and improved experiences of visitors and the residents of this city. When people come here from all over the world, we want their first thought to be, wow, what an incredible city. And their second thought to be, I can’t wait to come back.”

In his update, D’Alessandro said, “We will continue to be leaders in our field by tackling issues that a few years ago would not have been considered the responsibility of a destination marketing organization. We will prioritize matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion—within our staff, our board of directors, our membership, and our marketing and sales efforts. We will address the challenges to our destination posed by climate change. And we will collaborate with our various stakeholders to ensure that San Francisco is a destination that is clean, safe, and welcoming to all.” 

“There is a reason that a rising phoenix is emblazoned on the flag and seal of this great city,” said D’Alessandro. “The future will continue to present us with new challenges, from continued political polarization and global economic uncertainty to new and evolving virus variants. No industry has been impacted more by this global pandemic than travel and tourism. But our industry is resilient, and we will come back stronger than ever.”

 The San Francisco Bay Area began welcoming visitors and conventions following the city’s reopening in June this year. The U.S. border reopening to all international visitors in November is expected to make a positive impact on visitor arrivals in 2022. Based on recent forecasts for 2022, total visitor volume is expected to be 23 million in 2022 – reaching 88% of 2019 volume. Overnight visitors are projected to reach 79% of 2019 volume, with international visitors lagging at 58% of pre-pandemic volume.

During the meeting, Ike Kwon, chief operating officer and head of government affairs at the California Academy of Sciences, was installed as San Francisco Travel’s board chair for 2022. Kwon succeeds Jon Kimball, area general manager for Marriott International. In his role, Kwon will preside over the board of directors and executive committee and direct and guide policy at all meetings involving association partners, the executive committee, and the board of directors.

“I’m optimistic about our future, because I know that San Francisco has retained all the qualities that make people fall in love with it. Not even the pandemic could change that. We are still a city that’s open to all, that treasures creativity, that embraces what’s new, and that prides itself on giving visitors experiences they can’t have anywhere else,” said Kwon.  

Outgoing SF Travel Board Chair Jon Kimball said, “We have real initiatives in place to address key issues. Efforts like our new Welcome Ambassador program are going to go a long way toward improving both the reality and the perception of San Francisco’s streets. There is still much work to be done, and I hope that you’ll hold on to the spirit of collaboration, resiliency, and creativity that has made the earliest successes of our recovery possible.”

2021 Tourism and Civic Awards

The prestigious Silver Cable Car Award was bestowed on a group – San Francisco’s frontline hospitality workers – instead of an individual or organization this year. Presented by Kwon, the award acknowledged the significant contributions frontline workers have made to San Francisco tourism industry. The award was accepted on behalf of all hospitality frontline workers by three representatives from local restaurants and hotels.

“Our frontline hospitality workers are the backbone of our industry. They have continued to weather unprecedented challenges and shown tremendous determination and creativity,” said Kwon. “They have led the way in reassuring visitors who arrive in San Francisco that they are safe, they are welcome, and they will be cared for.” 

JPMorgan Chase received the 2021 Crystal Bridge Award, which honors convention clients that bring outstanding events with significant impact for San Francisco. The award recognizes JPMorgan Chase’s longstanding commitment to San Francisco, and was accepted by Melinda Yee Franklin, JPMorgan Chase’s West Region executive, community engagement/corporate responsibility. 

The company’s annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is the largest and most informative healthcare investment symposium in the industry, bringing together industry leaders, emerging fast-growth companies, innovative technology creators, and members of the investment community. The conference has met in San Francisco for 40 years.

John Noguchi, director of convention facilities for the city and county of San Francisco, received the Civic Excellence Award for his critical role in ensuring San Francisco’s continued success as a top meetings destination and his more than 30 years of service to the City and Moscone Center.

The San Francisco Travel Foundation’s John A. Marks Scholarship was awarded to University of San Francisco student Nicole Lee and was presented by Kevin Carroll, president and CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. The scholarship, named after San Francisco Travel’s former president and CEO, honors an outstanding student in a local college or university hospitality program. Applicants must demonstrate a solid work ethic, a commitment to the tourism industry, and a love of San Francisco.

About San Francisco Travel

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. Tourism is San Francisco's largest industry. More than 25.8 million people visited the destination in 2019, spending in excess of $10 billion. More than 86,000 jobs are supported by tourism in San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the metropolitan areas in the U.S. that has consistently kept Covid-19 largely under control. The  COVID-19 Prevention & Enhanced Cleaning Guidelines put forth by the Hotel Council of San Francisco, ensure that our hospitality businesses are adhering to the most elaborate cleaning and safety protocols. San Francisco Travel invites all visitors who are planning to come in 2021 to contribute their part to a safe and enjoyable experience by taking our Safe Travel Pledge.

For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com

For more about San Francisco, follow on www.facebook.com/onlyinSF/, www.instagram.com/onlyinsf/www.twitter.com/onlyinsf. Please use hashtags #sftravel and #AlwaysSF. 

About San Francisco International Airport 

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) wants you to Travel Well. SFO works with local, state and federal health officials to protect against COVID-19. Measures include enhanced cleaning protocols, hundreds of hand sanitizer stations, physical barriers, face coverings for everyone and physical distancing. To learn more visit flysfo.com/travel-well.

SFO offers nonstop service to Asia, South Pacific, Europe, Canada, Mexico and across the United States. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com. Follow us on www.twitter.com/flysfo and www.facebook.com/flysfo

United Airlines is the preferred airline of the San Francisco Travel Association.

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