SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - For the first time, San Francisco's image problem appears to have cost the city a major medical convention and tourists' money.
City leaders acknowledge a widespread cleanup is needed so this doesn't happen again.
"They've decided to go on to another city. I think that they felt that the condition of our streets was unacceptable to them. They had complaints the last time they were here so obviously this is a big concern for us," said Joe D'Allesandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel Association.
The blow didn't come as a surprise to D'Allesandro who runs the agency in charge of wooing business to the city. Now he's left regrouping in the convention's absence.
"This group alone is about $40 million any mid-size convention like this that comes to San Francisco is about $40 million plus loss of business. What's important, last year, visitors to San Francisco spent $10 billion in our economy and they paid $700 million in local taxes that we have to pay," D'Allesandro said.
Tourism brings in $9 billion a year convention account for $1.7 billion of the business. The unnamed group decided on Los Angeles, but a common complaint has been the city's just not safe with open drug use, homelessness and unclean streets. The hotel industry has also felt the snub.
"A hotel guest that stays in the city not only spends money in the hotel, but they spend more money outside the hotel than they do inside, so we lose a convention that affects the number of employees that work around the hotel the restaurants, the taxes, the businesses around the hotel and the city," said Kevin Carroll with Hotel Council of San Francisco.
News of the convention's decision landed on the steps of City Hall with Mayor-elect London Breed issuing a statement.
"This is a serious problem for our visitors industry and quite frankly it's a serious problem for all of us. Addressing unacceptable street behavior and the cleanliness of our streets is among my very top priorities and I'm not waiting around to be sworn in as mayor".
Breed added she is committed to putting more police officers on the streets, and create safe injection sites paired with drug treatment services. Conservatorships will also be utilized to intervene with people who are a danger to themselves and others.
Industry leaders realize their won't be a quick fix to the social issues that plague the city and are working with local leaders to address the problems.
"We started a program called Clean 365 during this mayoral campaign and it was addressed to these mayoral candidates, that we want to know whatever mayor comes into our city that this will be the number one issue for them," Carroll said.
KTVU spoke to tourist Keven Clouse visiting from Philadelphia "I've been here several times", said Clouse, "I know what to expect and the stereotypes and I've heard of Union Square and the homeless. I've been to Philadelphia, and New York so it doesn't bother me."
But a convention draws more revenue from one single tourist and city leaders have heard complaints before.
In March of 2018 International visitors in San Francisco for Game Developers Conference argued the city isn't safe.
Emre Deniz, director of a Melbourne-based game company Opaque Space sent out a viral tweet that stated in part "San Francisco is a dangerous city and America is not welcome to non-western developers. The city hates us being there. Move it he wrote."
D'Allessandro takes the complaints seriously like Carroll. With the hotel council he is working with city leaders and says it will take the focus of San Francisco's public and private sector to really make a difference and to help people on the streets.