Gov. Newsom touts CA tourism numbers. Here's why they're deceiving as SF businesses struggle

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, May 6, 2024
Gov. Newsom touts CA tourism as SF Wharf businesses struggle
Gov. Gavin Newsom praised California, announcing that last year tourists spent an all-time high, but the numbers don't factor in inflation.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Gavin Newsom praised California Sunday announcing that last year tourists spent an all-time high.

The numbers though don't factor in inflation and multiple businesses we talked with in San Francisco say businesses are far from being back to where they were.

"We couldn't be more proud to announce record-breaking tourism numbers in the State of California. Over 150 billion dollars of tourism spent, unprecedented in our state's history!"

From the top of the Golden Gate Bridge California Governor Gavin Newsom announced record-breaking data Sunday, showing that tourists spent more money than they ever have in California last year.

VIDEO: Here's a look at a proposed plan to add new attractions to SF's Pier 45 at iconic Fisherman's Wharf

Pier 45 on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco could be getting a big boost if a new proposed plan is approved.

Exciting to hear but that headline drew skepticism from all of the businesses ABC 7 News Reporter J.R. Stone spoke with in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

"The Wharf is still not back to where it was, I mean half the restaurants have closed," said Peter Demarest who is the GM at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant. "Compared to 2019 we're down 40-50 percent and the Wharf has comeback somewhat, but it is still not where it was before the pandemic so I think that's kind of an erroneous statement by the governor."

Visit California says travel spending reached $150.4 billion across the state in 2023, but that number does not factor in inflation. When adjusted for inflation, travel spending in 2023 was down 14 percent compared to before the pandemic in 2019.

"Back in 2016 this place was mobbed on the weekends, I mean there was a line going down the stairs," said Demarest. "We don't see that at all, even on a Saturday night."

Now, there's hope that businesses can hold strong because a previous travel forecast by Visit California put a 2027 estimate on when the numbers would fully recover with inflation factored in.

VIDEO: What doom loop? Downtown San Francisco showing signs of economic rebound, experts say

Shuttered storefronts and office vacancy rates are hitting over 35%. However, there are signs things may finally have bottomed out.

Tourist ABC7 News spoke with say they love most of the sights and sounds in San Francisco.

"San Francisco is very very very nice," said Marc Volders who is visiting from Belgium.

Cleanliness was a concern brought up by one group ABC7 News talked to. Sadly we watched someone go the bathroom as they stood along the sidewalk at Bay & Kearny just feet from a Muni bus, with no officers or ambassadors anywhere to be seen.

"California is iconic as it is. It's just the cleanliness is one of the things. First thing we realized, 'Oh yeah we're not in Colorado anymore.'" said Cz Za from California.

Business owners say they have not seen a rebound in visitors from Asia and while Europeans are starting to come back, they aren't coming back in the numbers we have previously seen pre-pandemic.

This week, there is a big Cybersecurity conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, which is good news for businesses.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live