San Francisco tourism officials worry about Trump effect

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- The San Francisco Travel Association, created shortly after the devastating earthquake of 1906, is holding its 107th annual meeting this week amid worries of how the Trump administration's policies will impact tourism to the City by the Bay.

The city notched a record for tourist visits last year but many officials now worry that travel to the city could taper off with the uncertainty coming from Washington, D.C.

San Francisco travel professionals have a lot to tout with the 25 million tourists whose visits in 2016 underpinned nearly 77,000 tourism workers and generated $10 billion in revenues.

But officials worry that foreign tourists may stay home if they perceive a U.S. that is hostile to them.

"We as tourism and hospitality professionals must deal with the fact that our country's most public figure is making it less appealing for some people to visit the United States," said Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association.

The group says that surveys show that plans to travel to the United States is down in several key U.S. markets, including San Francisco.

"This isn't opinion, this is fact," D'Alessandro said.

"Responding to the current federal political environment, San Francisco has put the city's spirit of openness, togetherness and unity front and center in everything it has done," said Enrico Rodriguez, chairman of the travel association.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said he also sees trouble brewing abroad for U.S. tourism.

"I do find myself (acting) as an explainer about what's happening in the U.S. with our governmental policies," he said. "And most importantly about that you can build whatever damn wall you want. We're gonna fly right over it."

When it came time for Munoz to address his airline's record, he did not single out the incident that garnered international headlines in which a doctor was caught on video being forcibly removed from an oversold United plane a few weeks ago.

"I know we've had our setbacks and we've fallen short of our values," he said. "And after those terrible, unacceptable events that took place on one of our planes in April, San Francisco was one the first places I came to visit and talk with customers, employees, community leaders and the mayor because I knew this community felt that event more acutely than anywhere else."

The CEO did not mention the nearly $500,000 fine United faces for flying a repaired but un-inspected plane 23 times before the government stepped in.

By KTVU reporter Tom Vacar.

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