San Francisco prepares for tourism Pow Wow

May 20, 2011 9:14:35 PM PDT
A global travel gathering is expected to generate $350 million in new tourism business for San Francisco. That is a lot of money, which means a lot of effort to keep those folks happy.

A fresh coat of paint never hurts when you're trying to make a good impression. San Francisco is welcoming more than 3,000 travel writers and tourism officials in the week ahead.

It is called International Pow Wow, a project of the U.S. Travel Association to entice more visitors from overseas to visit.

Competition for international visitors is heating up. A disembarking passenger from Vallejo saw a lot of them aboard a Princess cruise ship that sailed from Alaska.

"There are a lot of people on the boat, mostly from out of the country, brits and some Chinese," George Hale said.

But San Francisco, which earns $8 billion a year from tourism, is not alone wooing overseas visitors.

"If you're a person in Shanghai looking at where you want to travel, you may think, 'I may want to go to San Francisco, but I may also want to go to Sydney or Paris.' There are places all over the world that are competing very aggressively for that travel dollar," San Francisco Travel President and CEO Joe D'Alessandro said.

A large delegation of Chinese tour organizers will be attending Pow Wow to learn why they should steer their clients to San Francisco.

But there is one hurdle standing in the way. Post-Sept. 11 security measures make it difficult for the Chinese to get visas.

"They have to travel in-person to a consulate, they have to get the visa interview set up, they have to travel in many cases thousands of miles and bring the family," International Pow Wow General Manager Malcolm Smith said.

Tourists spend money on tours. They eat in restaurants. They create jobs.

"More tourism means more business and more people working, create a lot more jobs," Fog Harbor Fish House spokesperson Bob Partrite said.

Fog harbor fish house has added seven servers as tourist season ramps up. And five more might be hired.

The welcome mat is out. Organizers are hoping that Bay Area residents will do the same because every favorable impression that is made could mean more tourism and more jobs.

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