San Francisco tourism industry struggling

September 6, 2010 7:15:40 PM PDT
Labor Day weekend marks the traditional end of summer and with it the end of the busy vacation season. San Francisco is a tourist Mecca for people around the world, but lately business is off.

San Francisco's $7.8 billion tourism industry is taking a crooked road to recovery. Hotel occupancy has increased every month since last year, but visitors are not spending as much money.

Maitre d' Tyler Diestel works for Fisherman's Grotto No. 9 at Fisherman's Wharf. Diestel says in the good days, at lunchtime the banquet room would be always be filled with visitors from tour buses. He has definitely noticed individual tourists eating more cheaply this year.

"A lot more come to a crab stand over there instead of coming inside; they like the cheaper prices," Diestel said.

Crab cracker Rick Coco says, yes, he has been busy, but business could be much better.

"It hasn't been like it used to be like the days when it was packed everyday during the summer," Coco said.

Chinatown merchants say there are a lot more window shoppers this year.

Katie Chan runs the Hollywood 2 gift shop. She closed Hollywood 1 because of the lack of business.

"We see people but they don't spend money," Chan said.

Kirk Chappell drives a tour bus. He also says business has been down.

"I'm not sure if it's because of the weather or because they're just not spending this year too much," Chappell said.

San Francisco International Airport says they had 13 percent more foreign visitors in June than it had a year earlier.

For Europeans, the dollar is still a bargain. Hotel concierge Charles Anderson recalls what one guest told him.

"They went shopping; Louis Vuitton; they were able to buy a whole set and said, 'We could never buy this in Europe,'" Anderson said.

But the Bushman on Fisherman's Wharf may be the best barometer of San Francisco's tourism business. He makes a living scaring the heck out of our visitors.

"I think it's getting worse now; I used to make $200-$300 a day but now I'm making about $50 a day," the Bushman said.


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