SF economy takes major hit as JP Morgan Chase cancels in-person health care conference

JP Morgan is moving their 2022 healthcare conference online, instead of holding the in-person event in San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's economy just took a huge hit as JP Morgan Chase has canceled their in-person health care conference in the city, replacing it with a virtual one.

The conference was scheduled to take place January 10-13 with thousands expected to attend, but that will no longer happen.

"My first reaction this morning was, 'here we go again!'" says Manuel Torres of AlphaGraphics San Francisco upon hearing the conference be held virtually, instead of in-person in San Francisco. It's a move that is said to equate to millions in lost revenue for San Francisco hotels, restaurants, bars, and stores.

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Torres's company, which went from 17 employees to six over the pandemic, would have made guides and handouts for thousand of attendees. But no in-person conference means no $15,000 deal.

"We were scheduled to work over New Year's weekend because we need to make sure we get the order on time; so we were kind of pumped up for that and then we got the heads-up this morning," says Torres.

Those at the Handlery Union Square Hotel have already received around two dozen cancellation calls over what was billed as the largest health care symposium in the industry.

"We would have been 100% full. I would have brought back every employee who works at the hotel, so you're talking about bringing back 50 people who would be working a little over a week, and so that's a dramatic impact, and it's not something you can suddenly fill three weeks, four weeks away," says Jon Handlery.

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J.P. Morgan Chase sent an email to attendees saying, "The health and safety of our clients and employees is of the utmost importance and given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, we have made this decision."

But Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman believes that while the omicron variant has played into this decision, crime and homelessness likely did too.

"We know there were people involved in the conference who were calling on JP Morgan Chase to call off the conference and not come to San Francisco," says Wunderman who continued, "it's unacceptable to have people in a wonderful city like San Francisco or Oakland or anywhere in the Bay Area, or in our state, feel unsafe."

Everyone we spoke with says they're holding out hope for other large scale events.

RELATED: SF tourism industry bracing for boost as US lifts international travel restrictions

"I hope this is an overreaction by one conference," said Torres.

"It's a setback. It's not the end of the game. We will be back," says Wunderman.

"San Francisco always finds a way to rebound and I think we're going to do that again," says Handlery.

Here is the entire statement that JP Morgan Chase sent out to clients:
Out of an abundance of caution and after careful consideration, we have decided to virtualize our 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference scheduled to be held on January 10 - 13, 2022. The health and safety of our clients and employees is of the utmost importance and given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, we have made this decision. We were not only hopeful to meet in-person but also understand how much this conference means to the San Francisco community, which we fully support. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to seeing you back in San Francisco in-person in 2023.

The San Francisco Travel Association issued this statement:
We are very disappointed JPMorgan's in-person healthcare conference has been cancelled and moved to a virtual format. But we understand we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic and the priority is people's health and safety. We look forward to working with JPMorgan on their conference in 2023 as they are a valued partner. Given the current environment we are in, it is going to be a while until we see a full recovery in tourism. San Francisco is one of the safest places to meet in the U.S. given the city has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. As a way to help accelerate the recovery, we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and receive boosters as recommended by the CDC.

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