Tourists from Asian countries return to San Francisco as COVID travel restrictions loosen

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, November 17, 2022
Asian tourists return to SF as COVID travel restrictions loosen
San Francisco International Airport is seeing more tourists from Asia as many of the countries' travel restrictions have lifted.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is finally starting to see tourists return from Asia. More visitors have been arriving at San Francisco International Airport from countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Japan over the past few months. Many Asian countries have lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions.

SFO is seeing more visitors with each passing day, according to International Trade Administration Data.

The number of South Korean visitors arriving at SFO has more than doubled between Sept. 2021 and 2022.

Visitors from Taiwan have jumped from about 2,000 to nearly 10,000 over the same time frame.

Joe D'Alessandro is president and CEO of SF Travel.

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"In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, 63% of all tourism spending in San Francisco was by international visitors. So the international market is incredibly important for San Francisco," said D'Alessandro.

More than a million visitors came from Asia.

"China was number one," said D'Alessandro.

According to SF Travel, Chinese tourists accounted for one-tenth of all the money spent by international visitors. China still has yet to lift its COVID travel restrictions.

Travel agent Edward Siu, who owns classic tour, is counting down the days.

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Before that pandemic, Siu said SF saw many as 5,000 tourists from China every month.

Our hotels can't wait, says Alex Bastian CEO of hotel council of San Francisco.

"We are excited about that and where we could be in 2023," said Bastian. "We are open for business. We are excited about increase travel to San Francisco."

Many people say getting international visitors back to San Francisco will make a big difference for our hotels, our restaurants, our stores.

"Getting international visitors back to San Francisco is going to help a lot of our small businesses. It's going to get people back to work," said D'Alessandro

Industry experts say it'll be years, possibly not until 2025, before we will see pre-pandemic tourism numbers again.

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